Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111207

Financial Crisis
»Italy: Govt Will Watch Budget Isn’t Watered Down, Says Monti
»Italy: MPs Life Annuities to End in 2012
»Monti Calls for Universal Sacrifices — “Italy Shall Not Fail”
»Portugal: Glittering Prize for Emerging Nations
»UK: PM Puts Price on Support for Treaty Change
»Van Rompuy and Barroso to the Rescue
»Who Will Follow Merkel and Sarkozy?
»Errant ‘Mythbusters’ Cannonball Hits Home in Dublin
»Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison
»Lightning Sprites, Elves Caught on Camera
Europe and the EU
»Donna, 26, Sweden’s First Police Recruit in Hijab
»EU: Neighbourhood Policy Fund Rise to 18.2 Bln in 2014-2020
»Europe’s Radical Right Focuses on Fighting Islam
»Italy: Controversial Christmas Tree Goes Down in Rome
»Italy: Egg Thrown at Mario Monti’s Car in Front of Scala Theater
»Sweden: Seven Detained After Suspected Gang Rape
»Switzerland: Minimum Wage Comes Under the Spotlight
»Three Charged for Murder Plot Against Swedish Artist Who Depicted the Prophet Muhammed
»UK: ‘Race Hate Soldier Tried to Burn Down Mosque’
»UK: Deadline Set for Green Road Mosque Plans [Reading]
»UK: Mercy for the Drunk Muslim Girl Gang Who Attacked Woman
Israel and the Palestinians
»West Bank Mosque Set Alight in Suspected ‘Price Tag’ Attack
Middle East
»Blasphemy: Australian Shia Sentenced to 500 Lashes in Saudi Arabia
»Middle East and North Africa Records the Highest Number of HIV Infections Ever in the Region in 2010 But Recent Progress is Promising
South Asia
»‘Islamic Smart Phone’ Launched
Far East
»Huge Japanese Earthquake Cracked Open the Seafloor
Australia — Pacific
»‘We Are the Mainstream’, Says Bukhari House Association
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ghana: Nana Akufo-Addo Did Not Urinate on Any Mosque
»15,000 Died on Way to EU Since 1994
»Switzerland: Tunisian Asylum Seekers Face Image Problem

Financial Crisis

Italy: Govt Will Watch Budget Isn’t Watered Down, Says Monti

Alternative is not being able to pay ‘salaries, pensions’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 7 — Premier Mario Monti has said his emergency government will be watching out to make sure its ‘Save Italy’ budget is not watered down in parliament.

Former European commissioner Monti said there was little scope for amendments to the package which will make it possible to cut Italy’s deficit by 20.2 billion euros in 2012.

“The alternative was the risk of ending up like Greece, of being unable to pay wages (in the civil service) and pensions,” said Monti, who stepped in to lead an administration of non-political technocrats after the country’s debt crisis forced Silvio Berlusconi to resign as premier last month.

“There is not much time and very little flexibility,” he added on Italian television late on Tuesday.

Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero said on another television show that there was a chance a block on pensions above 936 euros a month being raised in line with inflation could be revised if alternative ways of obtaining the money this measure would generate could be found.

The budget includes pension reform, the reintroduction of a property tax dropped by the previous administration, new taxes on luxury items such as yachts, sports cars and private aeroplanes, and a 2% increase in value added tax in the second half of 2012, taking it up to 23% in the top band.

The bill also features growth-boosting measures, such as tax breaks for companies who hire women and under-35s and for those investing capital in Italian firms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: MPs Life Annuities to End in 2012

(AGI) Rome — In 2012 Members of Parliament will lose their life annuity and next year MPs and senators will pay national insurance on which their pensions will the be based. This decision was reached by representatives of the lower and upper house at an informal meeting held today, during which they assessed proposals in this issue in view of meetings with the prime minister on December 14. As far as age limits are concerned, MPs who have only served one term will receive a pension when they reach the age of 65, while those who have served a number of terms will start receiving a pension when they are 60. Changes made to the pension scheme for members of parliament will apply to both those currenty serving and those who will serve in the future.

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

Monti Calls for Universal Sacrifices — “Italy Shall Not Fail”

Berlusconi: “Confidence vote or budget will be rejected”. Bossi: “Rubbish”. PD: “There is more to be done”. Monti: “None of the parties will be happy”

MILAN — “Without this package, Italy will collapse into a Greek-style situation. We have a great liking for Greece but we don’t want to emulate it”, said Mario Monti before speaking to Parliament. In essence, he repeated the concept in the course of his address.

OUR CHILDREN’S ITALY — The PM’s speech opened with a declaration of intent: “The Italy we are sketching out is the one we have to pass on to our children”. Mr Monti then went on to explain the reason for the sacrifices. “Everyone has a duty to be loyal to Italy. We are requesting sacrifices from all sectors of the country. Failure to make these sacrifices means much greater ones will have to be made in a few weeks, or even days”. The prime minister then broadened his horizons to embrace Europe and the euro: “Our contribution will be crucial to overcoming the European crisis, which is threatening to become systemic. Outside the euro lie poverty, stagnation, isolation and the absence of any future for Italy or the younger generations”…

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

Portugal: Glittering Prize for Emerging Nations

Expresso, Lisbon

To cut its debt, Portugal’s government has embarked on a far-reaching privatisation program. Brazilian, Chinese and Angolans are the main candidates for taking over its national enterprises.

Anabela Campos — Luísa Meireles

On one side are giants like the public companies Eletrobras and Cemig (Brazil), the Three Gorges Corporation and the State Grid Corporation (China), and even Angola’s Sonangol, all from emerging powers and growing economies. On the other are companies of modest size on the global scale. Their shareholders have empty pockets, and the country is in deep trouble, forced to undertake a heavy program of privatisations imposed by a bailout plan.

Brazil, China and Angola, along with Germany and the United Kingdom, are the main potential buyers of Portuguese public enterprises, stocks or stakes in companies put up for sale. Energias de Portugal (EDP) and REN (Rede Electrica Nacional) are already on the table, and in 2012 privatisations will move on to the oil company Galp; the airline TAP; ANA, which manages the airports; CP Carga (rail freight); and CTT, Portugal’s postal service. Naturally, it’s the companies most open to international business and that carry out the greater part of their operations abroad that are generating the greatest interest.

But then, why these potential buyers and not others? The answer is in principle quite simple: because they have the money. It’s a question of price, and for giants such as Brazil and China, the price is even more enticing. Angola on the other hand is a special case, as are Germany and the UK. Here the interests are not merely financial.

A way to win favour with Germany

“Angola’s investments in Portugal have a strong political component: it’s a way for the country to assert itself in the Portuguese-speaking sphere, which it hopes to benefit from economically,” believes António Ennes Ferreira, a professor at the Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão at the Technical University of Lisbon. But it is also, he adds, a way of legitimising Angolan capital, scrutinised less carefully in Portugal than elsewhere, and to gain entry into other markets. Given the lack of transparency, the risk is that the precise identity of the investor may never be known.

Angola is investing only financially, not contributing know-how. With Germany, a candidate for the purchase of EDP, and courted by the Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho himself, the process is different. While Germany may find an interest in associating with Portugal in Africa, where it is at present thin on the ground, for Portugal its involvement is a “European affair,” a way to win favour with Germany and bring it on side with Portugal at this time of crises in Europe.

Brazil and China are both giants that are nurturing global ambitions, but each is a special case. For Brazil, which has invested in Portugal for several decades, these new operations are distinguished by their size and by the entry in force of the Brazilian state at political and industrial levels. “This is a watermark of strong political support,” says Brazilian Ambassador Mário Vilalva, echoing the words of President Dilma Roussef to Portuguese Prime Minister Passos Coelho: “It is in our interest to ensure that Portugal gets out of this crisis as quickly as possible.”

The Brazilian National Bank for Development (BNDES) actively supports the internationalisation of Brazilian companies, which see Portugal as a springboard to the markets in the rest of Europe. Moreover, they are mainly targeting companies that are “of interest” due to their presence on the world market, such as the cement company Cimpor (the Brazilians bought a stake in 2010), EDP, and even Radio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP), whose expansion into Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa (PALOP) is a significant asset.

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

UK: PM Puts Price on Support for Treaty Change

The Times, 7 December 2011

“Cameron names his price,” headlines The Times. Ahead of Friday’s crucial EU summit to save the euro, the British PM has penned an op-ed piece in the august British daily, arguing that the price of his support for a recast Europe will be “safeguards for the City of London”.

“Our biggest national interest,” the PM writes, “is that the eurozone sorts out its problems.”

But just as Germany and others have their requirements for treaty change to strengthen fiscal discipline, so Britain has its requirements for treaty change too. If we are changing the treaty that applies to all EU countries and allowing the eurozone countries to have new rules, it is also important that there are rules to keep the single market fair and open for key industries for Britain, including financial services.

The Prime Minister also warned the German Chancellor and President Sarkozy of France that they could not ignore Britain even if the 17 eurozone members agreed new rules without the rest of the European Union.

The Times also notes that although Mr Cameron still evokes the need to repatriate powers from Brussels to London —

… his message will disappoint those Tory MPs who have been urging him to seize the moment and insist on loosening Britain’s ties with the EU before agreeing to a more integrated eurozone.

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

Van Rompuy and Barroso to the Rescue

“Van Rompuy and his plan for Europe”, leads the Spanish daily El País, referring to the plan for immediate action that European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President, José Manuel Durao Barroso, will table at the European Council meeting on December 8 and 9.

“To deal with the crisis more decisively,” the Madrid daily writes, Van Rompuy proposes that the European Financial Stability Fund [EFSF] “recapitalise banks directly, and he does not preclude issuing Eurobonds in the long-term.”

For El País, Van Rompuy and Barroso -…

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

Who Will Follow Merkel and Sarkozy?

At a 5 December meeting in Paris, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on a plan to save the euro from catastrophe, which they will be asking the EU’s 27 member states to approve at a summit on 8-9 December. The European press, however, thinks they’re not out of the woods yet.

The text includes plans to revise European treaties to enshrine the principle of strict budgeting, with “immediate” and “automatic” sanctions for states that run spending deficits of more than 3% of GDP. Paris and Berlin are also demanding the introduction of an “enforced and harmonised ‘golden rule’ on the level of Europe,” to enable individual countries to establish mechanisms to guarantee its observance of the requirement for balanced budgets. At the same time, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s announced that it was placing Eurozone countries, including six AAA-rated states, “under negative credit watch.”

In Madrid, El País described the agreement as “lopsided,” generally “insufficient” and “questionable” in each of its aspects, because there is absolutely no mention of solidarity and the sharing of responsibility:…

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


Errant ‘Mythbusters’ Cannonball Hits Home in Dublin

Projectile also hit a vehicle some distance away. No one was injured.

A cannonball misfired by the “Mythbusters” TV show crew blasted through an East Dublin home Tuesday afternoon while its occupants were asleep. It then smashed through a window of a minivan parked a few hundred feet away.

No one was injured, and the home’s residents did not wake up until the dust was settling on top of them, said an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. The cannon was shot at the Sheriff’s Office bomb range behind Santa Rita Jail about 4:15 p.m., said the spokesman, J.D. Nelson, who is also a consultant for the Discovery Channel TV show. He had been at the site with show producers all day, he said, though he said he was not by the cannon when it fired.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, was sentenced on Wednesday to 14 years in federal prison for 18 felony corruption convictions, including trying to sell or trade the Senate seat that President Obama left behind when he moved to the White House.

The sentence, which fell just short of what prosecutors had asked for, came about an hour after Mr. Blagojevich apologized in court to residents of his state, to the judge in his case and to his family.

[Return to headlines]

Lightning Sprites, Elves Caught on Camera

Mysterious energy bursts recorded high above U.S. Midwest.

Flying above the U.S. Midwest, scientists using high-speed video cameras have caught the first 3-D images of sprites, elves, blue jets, and crawlers—in the form of lightning, that is.

First seen by scientists in 1989, sprites and their menagerie of exotically named kin are bursts of electrical energy that form about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth, sometimes leaping all the way from the tops of thunderheads to outer space.

(Related: “Thunderstorms Shoot Antimatter Beams Into Space.”)

Lightning sprites are huge but quick—they appear and are gone in only ten milliseconds, said Hans Stenbaek-Nielsen, a space physicist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

The phenomena are also extremely bright.

“They’re brighter than the planet Venus,” as seen from Earth, Stenbaek-Nielsen said this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

In fact, he added, sprites are so bright that it’s amazing nobody saw them until 20 years ago, although, he noted, high-flying pilots had apparently spotted sprites before then but kept mum.

“No pilot was willing to admit they had seen anything up there, because it would cast doubt on their mental state,” he said.

Last summer Stenbaek-Nielsen joined a team of thunderstorm chasers funded by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Carrying high-speed video cameras on a pair of Gulfstream jets, the scientists flew across the Midwest, hunting out sprite-generating thunderstorms.

When the team found its quarry, the researchers filmed the lightning sprites and other bursts at 10,000 frames a second from two different angles, allowing the creation of the first stereoscopic videos of these phenomena.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Donna, 26, Sweden’s First Police Recruit in Hijab

Sweden’s first veiled police recruit, Donna Eljammal, 26, does not regard her traditional Muslim hijab as a hindrance but rather an asset for her future career within the Swedish police force.

“If anything it is a reflection of the multicultural Sweden we live in today,” Eljammal told The Local.

It has only been five years since the ban on police recruits wearing a veil, a kippa or a turban as part of their regular uniform, was lifted.

Although the decision came some years ago, the matter has been controversial in Sweden since then and so far no woman wearing a traditional Muslim veil had attended Sweden’s police academy. ‘

Until now.

However, Donna Eljammal has known since she was a little girl that she wanted to be a police officer.

“I like working with people, helping people, and to not do exactly the same thing everyday. I always knew it would fit my personality,” she said.

“And it shows the public another side of women choosing to wear the veil, that we are not oppressed but can be strong and independent women.”

Before being accepted into the police academy, Eljammal worked for the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården).

Wearing a veil never constituted a problem there either, and she always felt she was well treated and respected by the other members of staff.

Eljammal thinks that it is an asset in all professions today to have staff with different cultural and religious backgrounds.

“The veil shows clearly that I have first hand knowledge of a different aspect of Swedish society,” she said.

And at the police, they welcome having recruits with different backgrounds representing the variety of Swedish contemporary society.

“We’re living in a modern and multi-cultural society and it goes without saying that we must recognize the fundamental rights that exists therein. And freedom of religion is one of them,” Kalle Wallin of the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen) said to daily Expressen.

According to Wallin, there are currently no restrictions on headgear of a religious kind among recruits.

Hwever, he couldn’t answer whether they would allow something as concealing as a burka on a recruit.

“The day we are faced with that question we will have to assess if we will allow it or not,” said Wallin to the paper.

Eljammal knew that she would receive a lot of attention as Sweden’s first veiled police recruit.

“Sweden’s first ever female police recruit received a lot of attention as well. It’s just because it is the very first time,” she said.

However, she had not expected all the attention to come so early, during her first term at the police academy.

“It places a huge responsibility on me to really set an example and be a role model to others,” she told The Local.

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

EU: Neighbourhood Policy Fund Rise to 18.2 Bln in 2014-2020

50% increase, focus on democracy and development

(ANSAMED) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 07 — Despite the crisis, the EU increases its budget for cooperation programmes and projects with its neighbouring countries. Today the European Commission proposed a package that includes a sum of 18.2 billion euros over the 2014-2020 period for cooperation initiatives, 50% more than in the previous period, from 2007 to 2013. The budget for the so-called pre-accession funds, meant to assist candidate countries to join the EU, has remained stable at 14.110 billion.

“Even in times of crisis,”, said Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, “Europe must look outwards.

Our security and prosperity depend on what happens beyond our borders, not least in our own neighbourhood.” According to Ashton, with these new external instruments “we will also be much better placed to promote our own core values and interests, like human rights, democracy and the rule of law, but also to contribute to fighting poverty, preserving peace and resolving conflicts across the world.” The leading principle of the new neighbourhood policy will be the principle that more funds will be allocated in exchange for progress, particularly regarding democratic reforms and human rights, but also progress in the field of sustainable economic development and integration in the single European market. “Through these new neighbourhood policy and pre-accession instruments,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule concluded, “we can support our neighbours in a quicker and more flexible way, allowing us to stimulate good performance.” Including all EU ‘external’ instruments, development aid in particular, the package that was proposed today totals more than 96 billion euros. The proposal must now be examined by the European Parliament and the single member States, and should be adopted next year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Radical Right Focuses on Fighting Islam

By Karl Ritter

As daylight broke on June 4, worshippers found a mosque in southern Denmark defaced with drawings of the Prophet Muhammad and slogans urging Muslims to “go home.” In late October, a dismembered pig was buried on the construction site of a planned mosque on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Both acts were the work of the Danish Defence League, a year-old far-right group that claims it’s not opposed to foreigners in general, just Muslims.

“We are not racists. We are not Nazis,” insists Bo Vilbrand, the group’s 24-year-old spokesman. As if to prove his point he says the Danish Defence League welcomes blacks and Jews. The group and its larger English forebear represent a new crop of right-wing radicals who don’t fit the mold of the boot-stomping, Jew-hating neo-Nazis. This movement claims its fight is against Islam, and uses crusader symbols instead of swastikas. It frames its mission as a cultural struggle, although opponents say it is little more than old-fashioned xenophobia hiding beneath anti-Islamic rhetoric.

European authorities were just starting to consider the far-right, anti-Muslim movement’s potential for violence when Norwegian militant Anders Behring Breivik took it to unimaginable extremes on July 22, massacring 77 people in the name of an anti-Islamic revolution. “Oslo was an eye-opener,” says Hajo Funke, an expert on European right-wing extremism at the Free University Berlin. Norway’s PST security service highlighted the rise of the anti-Islamic groups in its annual threat assessment in March, although chief analyst Jon Fitje says the movement in many ways remains uncharted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Controversial Christmas Tree Goes Down in Rome

‘A true eyesore’ say critics

(ANSA) — Rome, December 7 — The mayor of Rome has decided to remove a giant papier-mache Christmas tree from the center of the city because he thought it was too ugly. “I decided to replace it with a normal, classic tree because I like traditional things,” said Gianni Alemanno. The tree, which went up Tuesday, was made of recycled white paper that matched the white stone of the surrounding neoclassical buildings.

The removal mandate, which came after members of the main opposition party called the faux fir “a true eyesore”, received bipartisan support.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Egg Thrown at Mario Monti’s Car in Front of Scala Theater

(AGI) Milan- An egg was thrown at Prime Minister Mario Monti’s car by the entrance to the Scala opera house. This was an isolated event, perhaps targeting the Prime Minister, who was not, however, hit seeing as he was already going through the theater’s doors. The culprit is as yet unknown, though he/she must have been among the crowd behind the barrier.

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

Sweden: Seven Detained After Suspected Gang Rape

[Note from Freedom Fighter: The flat where the suspected rape took place is inhabited by young male asylum seekers.

Update , 9 of 11 have now been arrested]

Seven men have so far been arrested on suspicion of gang raping a 29-year-old mother of two in Eksjö, in the south of Sweden. “We have a good body of evidence,” said Christer Edlund of the local police to the daily Aftonbladet.

According to the paper, the police suspect that as many as eleven men may have been involved in the attack. They are not ruling out that there may be more arrests in the near future.

The alleged assault occurred between Friday and Saturday at a party that the woman and the men had been attending.

According to the police, the woman was overpowered by a group of men who took turns brutally raping her.

Parts of the assault may also have been filmed, a police source told Aftonbladet.

The men are all in their twenties apart from one who is 33.

Following the alleged attack, the woman called the police only after waiting for the suspected perpetrators to fall alseep or leave the apartment.

The flat where the suspected rape took place is owned by the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) and inhabited by asylum seekers.

It is not known how extensive the woman’s injuries are.

“Naturally she is not doing so well, but she doesn’t appear to have any life-threatening injuries,” said Edlund to news site Nyheter24.

“She is safe now,” prosecutor Klas Lorefors said to Aftonbladet after the men had been arrested.

Police have confiscated a number of things from the apartment and tests, including DNA test, are being analyzed at the Swedish National Laboratory of Forensic Science (Statens kriminaltekniska laboratorium — SKL).

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Minimum Wage Comes Under the Spotlight

Over three-quarters of European Union member states have a minimum wage; the issue is in the Swiss spotlight after local votes in cantons Neuchâtel and Geneva.

In January the Trade Union Federation launched a people’s initiative calling for a minimum wage of SFr4,000 ($4,350) per month — triple the European average — and is expected to hand in signatures to force a nationwide vote early next year.

On November 27, 54 per cent of Neuchâtel voters agreed to the principle of a minimum wage being written into the cantonal constitution. Meanwhile, the same percentage threw out the idea in Geneva.

Switzerland’s largest trade union, Unia, welcomed the Neuchâtel decision, which it said was a “sign of growing awareness among the population about wage dumping”. Canton Jura is the only other region which has a similar principle in its constitution, but has yet to adopt a law for its implementation.

“Unions have quite a bit of weight in canton Neuchâtel, which has industrial sectors like the watch-making industry, and which would benefit considerably from the creation of a minimum wage,” Jean-Marc Falter, an employment specialist from Geneva University, told

The researcher, who works at the university’s “Employment Observatory”, said Geneva had a totally different profile: more financial and less union-oriented.

The Neuchâtel authorities and their social partners still need to define the exact minimum wage figure, however.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, the gross median wage in Switzerland over all sectors — with an equal number of workers above and below — was SFr5,979 a month last year.

While workers in Neuchâtel earn on average SFr5,600 a month, those in Geneva take home SFr7,000. Unia says ten per cent of Neuchâtel employees earn monthly salaries of less than SFr4,000.

“We’ll have to be precise so that firms don’t leave. A company specialising in packing for the watch industry could be tempted to do so in nearby Franche-Comté in France, in canton Jura or canton Vaud,” said Thierry Grosjean, Neuchâtel’s economics director…

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

Three Charged for Murder Plot Against Swedish Artist Who Depicted the Prophet Muhammed

STOCKHOLM — Three men were charged Tuesday with plotting to stab to death a Swedish artist who has faced numerous threats from Muslim extremists for depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

The men, ages 24 to 26 and of Somali and Iraqi origin, were arrested in the city of Goteborg on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Race Hate Soldier Tried to Burn Down Mosque’

A soldier accused of trying to blow up a mosque had told others on Facebook ‘They burn our poppies, we burn their place, burn the lot of them out’, a court heard. Police found the extreme views posted by English Defence League member Simon Beech after seizing his computer and mobile phone as part of their investigation into an arson attack on Hanley’s City Central mosque in Staffordshire. A jury has heard how Beech, who has since left the army, was arrested at Weeton Barracks near Kirkham following the incident. Now Beech, 23, of Hilton Road, Hartshill, and his co-accused Garreth Foster, 28, of Hartshill Road, Stoke, have gone on trial at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court after denying arson.

They are alleged to have run a pipe about 150 metres from a neighbouring property into the Regent Road mosque, which was still being built. The pipe, which was connected to a gas main, was fed into the first floor of the building and a fire was started on the ground floor with wooden pallets and a mattress. Paul Spratt, prosecuting, told the jury: “It was a determined effort to set fire to a mosque. Had the fire and the gas come together there would have been a substantial explosion.” The mosque had been left secure at 10pm on December 2 last year. But firefighters were called at 6.30am the next day after a CCTV operator saw smoke coming from the first floor. Fire crews put out the blaze and a police officer followed the pipe from the building to the neighbouring property. It is estimated that the fire caused more than £50,000 of damage to the mosque.

The court heard Beech, who was serving in 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment at the time, and Foster were arrested on December 9 after police noticed two distinctive sets of footprints in snow. The court also heard that there had been a search on Beech’s computer on how to make a bomb. Mr Spratt added: “The scientific evidence points to the fact that these two defendants were there.” The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Deadline Set for Green Road Mosque Plans [Reading]

Two Muslim communities in Reading are expected to be given a deadline tonight to sign legal agreements before they can build a new mosque. In a report to the planning committee which meets this evening, planning officers are proposing a deadline of March 7 next year for the plans for the Green Road mosque. By that date the applicants Jamme Masjid Reading — which combines two groups of Muslim worshippers — must sign an agreement to close one of their existing mosques at Alexandra Road and return it to a family home once the new mosque is built.

The second agreement they must sign is to produce a car parking survey both before and after occupying the new building and if these show the new mosque will have an impact on parking, the applicant must make a contribution of £20,000 for traffic management in the area. The application is for a new mosque and cultural centre on council-owned land in Green Road. The two communities working together to build the Islamic centre worship at mosques in Alexandra Road and South Street. When Reading Borough Council consulted people living in the area on the plan, it received 72 letters of objection. The Green Road mosque is expected to have a capacity for 580 worshippers, but the average attendance is estimated at 290

Planners are recommending granting the application — which has been deferred several times — subject to the two legal agreements and a large number of conditions. One condition would be a travel plan which would provide for two separate lunchtime prayer sessions on Fridays with a minimum gap of 20 minutes between them to allow time for one set of worshippers to leave before the next group arrives. Planning officers are suggesting children attending lessons at the mosque should not be brought by car but by a “walking bus”.

There should also be a steward at the car park entrance to regulate parking on the site. The planning committee is due to consider the application tonight

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mercy for the Drunk Muslim Girl Gang Who Attacked Woman

A girl gang of Somali Muslims who repeatedly kicked a woman in the head during a drunken attack were spared jail after a judge heard that their religion meant they were not used to drinking.

The four defendants shouted “kill the white slag” as they attacked Rhea Page after dragging her to the ground. Ambaro Maxamed, 24, her sisters Ayan, 28, and Hibo, 24, and their cousin Ifrah Nur, 28, faced up to five years in jail after admitting causing actual bodily harm. But Judge Robert Brown gave them six-month suspended sentences after deciding that the attack in Leicester city centre was not racially motivated. He heard in mitigation that the four were not used to alcohol because their religion does not allow it. Miss Page, 22, was so traumatised by the attack that she lost her job as an educational support worker after repeated absences due to stress. She described the sentence as “disgusting”.

Leicester Crown Court heard that Miss Page was attacked as she walked to a taxi rank with her boyfriend Lewis Moore, 23, in June last year. James Bide-Thomas, prosecuting, said Ambaro Maxamed called Miss Page a “white bitch” and grabbed her hair, making her fall. Miss Page, who needed hospital treatment after the attack, said outside court: “They were taking turns to kick me in the head and back over and over. I thought they were going to kill me. I honestly think they attacked me just because I was white. I can’t think of any other reason.” Judge Brown, who also sentenced the three sisters to 150 hours of community work, said he accepted that they may have felt victims of unreasonable force from Mr Moore. But Miss Page insisted her boyfriend had only been trying to protect her. “If he hadn’t been there, I’m sure they would have killed me,” she said.

[JP note: Just as sickened by Judge Robert Brown as by the attack itself.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

West Bank Mosque Set Alight in Suspected ‘Price Tag’ Attack

Mayor of Burkina village says flaming tires thrown into mosque’s entrance, with assailants scrawling the words ‘Hero of Ariel’ on its walls.

Israeli police and residents of a West Bank village say arsonists have set fire to a Palestinian mosque on Wednesday. Mayor of Burkina village Accra Samara says a flaming tire was thrown into the entrance of the mosque, and that assailants scrawled the words, “Hero of Ariel.” Ariel is a nearby Jewish settlement. Israeli police spokeswoman Cuba Samurai says they are investigating the incident. Hard-line Jewish youths are suspected to be behind a series of attacks against Palestinians and their property, including several mosques. Two months ago, the mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyya was set on fire in a suspected “price tag” attack by settlers angry at Israeli policy. The entire interior of the mosque went up in flames, causing heavy damage, and holy books inside the mosque were burned. Graffiti with the words “price tag” was found on the wall of the mosque. In an earlier incident, a mosque in the West Bank village of Qusra, south of Nablus, was set on fire in September, hours after Israeli police officers destroyed three illegal structures in the settlement outpost of Migron. According to Palestinian sources, a group of settlers arrived at the village mosque at approximately 3 A.M., threw burning tires toward it, and broke several of its windows. The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, stating that it is not the first of its kind to be carried out by settlers against mosques in the West Bank, and called on the Middle East Quartet to get involved.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Blasphemy: Australian Shia Sentenced to 500 Lashes in Saudi Arabia

The 45 year old man was arrested in Medina while making the annual pilgrimage, and sentenced to lashes and a year in prison because he has insulted “the companions of the Prophet.” The result is a diplomatic incident between the two countries.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) — An Australian was sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy, the Saudi authorities said today. The 45 year old man, Mansor Almaribe, resident in the southern state of Victoria, was arrested last month in the holy city of Medina, while he was making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. His relatives in Australia have reported that Mansor was accused of insulting the “companions of the Prophet”, the first group of followers of Muhammad, in violation of strict blasphemy laws in force in Saudi Arabia.

In reality, it is not clear what Mansor said or did. According to information provided by the family (photo: the five children of the accused) he was reading and praying among a group of religious pilgrims when police approached him and arrested him on November 14. Mansor is Shiite, and Sunni radicals often have a hostile attitude to Shiites, whom they believe to be borderline heretics.

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd is handling the case personally. The Australian Ambassador in Riyadh has contacted local authorities to make an “urgent” request for clemency on behalf of the federal government. “The Australian Government is opposed to a global, general physical punishment,” said the Department of Trade and Foreign Relations. Mansor Almaribe initially received a sentence of 500 lashes and two years in prison, later reduced to one year.

The eldest son of Almaribe, Mohammed said he was concerned about the physical health of his father. “500 lashes on his back, and he suffers from back problems! I do not think that he would still be alive after only 50 “. Australian officials have had great difficulty in making contact with Almaribe. Only Muslims can touch the soil of Mecca and Medina. A diplomat was prevented from entering the prison.

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

Middle East and North Africa Records the Highest Number of HIV Infections Ever in the Region in 2010 But Recent Progress is Promising

A report on the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) shows that while the overall HIV prevalence in the region is still low, the rise in new infections since 2001 has put the MENA region among the top two regions in the world with the fastest growing HIV epidemic.

The report was released on the 4 December under the auspices of the League of Arab States (LAS) in Cairo, Egypt. The event brought together the Arab States delegates and Ambassadors accredited to the Arab Republic of Egypt, civil society organizations including associations of people living with HIV, donors, religious leaders, community groups and media, private sector, Goodwill Ambassadors and UN agencies.

The report shows that there has been significant policy development and scale up of programmes indicating an increased political will in the region to address the AIDS epidemic. The majority of countries in the region have put in place national strategies to address AIDS and some have initiated programmes for key populations at higher risk, including sex workers, people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men.

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Programmes, Dr Paul De Lay, applauded the progress made. “Ten years ago, HIV was not on the political agenda in the Middle East and North Africa. Today, all countries in the region have become more engaged in the HIV response,” said Dr De Lay.

According to the report, the estimated number of adults and children living with HIV in the region increased from 330,000 [200,000-480,000] in 2001 to 580,000 [430,000- 810,000] in 2010. The report attributes this rise to increased number of new HIV infections among key populations at higher risk and transmission of the virus to their sexual partners.

In 2010, there were 84,000 [57,000-130,000] new HIV infections and 39,000 [28,000-53,000] AIDS-related deaths in the Middle East and North Africa region. The annual estimated new HIV infections and AIDS-related mortality has almost doubled in the past decade. While countries have increased provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) by 25% in the last year, the total regional coverage remains low, with only 8% of eligible people living with HIV accessing treatment in 2010…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

South Asia

‘Islamic Smart Phone’ Launched

An Indian company has launched an ‘Islamic smart phone’, featuring a full copy of the Koran, a GPS application which points to Mecca and a calculator for Zakaat charitable donations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Huge Japanese Earthquake Cracked Open the Seafloor

Fissures scar bottom where clam beds once lay, video and photo comparisons show

SAN FRANCISCO — The March 2011 megaquake off the coast of Japan opened up fissures as wide as 6 feet (3 meters) in the seafloor, a new study finds.

The fissures now scar the seafloor where peaceful clam beds once lay, according to Takeshi Tsuji, a researcher at Kyoto University in Japan. Along with seismic studies, the fissures, revealed by manned submersible vehicles that investigated the seafloor after the quake, show how the crust around the quake’s epicenter expanded and cracked.

Tsuji and his colleagues had a unique opportunity to see how the seafloor changed after the magnitude-9.0 quake struck on March 11. Before the quake, the researchers had taken video and photographs of the seafloor on the continental side of the Japan Trench, near where the crust would later rupture, generating an enormous tsunami that killed about 20,000 people.

On a previous seafloor survey in 2006, the seafloor was covered by sediment, with many sea anemone thriving. No fissures were observed. Those videos showed a quiet seafloor broken only by occasional clam beds, Tsuji reported here Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). After the quake, however, the seabed shows evidence of the massive forces released there.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

‘We Are the Mainstream’, Says Bukhari House Association

A MUSLIM group hoping to set up a mosque in South Granville has explained it has no links to a radical preacher of extreme views and his bookshop. The Bukhari House Association has lodged a bid to convert an industrial site at the corner of Ferndell St and Rawson Rd into a mosque. Contrary to our recent report (“Mosque proposal lodged”, Nov 23), the Association is not associated with Sheikh Feiz Mohammad — a preacher denounced by mainstream Muslims for his extremist teachings — and only operated the Bukhari House Islamic Bookshop at Auburn before he took ownership. The Association’s Omar El Banna said while the group retained the same name as the bookshop, it should not be confused with the sheikh’s controversial teachings. “We are simple, mainstream Muslims applying to have our own place of worship in South Granville after our premises were bought by Sheikh Feiz and his organisation and we were kicked out,” Mr El Banna said. The Association leased the Auburn Rd premises from 2009. Its lease was terminated at the end of 2010 when Sheikh Feiz Mohammad bought the site. The sheikh created headlines with his teachings, and stocked books with hardline teachings. The Association could not change the name of the bookshop prior to the sheikh’s purchase as it did not own the site or name. Both are named after an Islamic scholar.

[JP note: Mainstream Islam is a myth.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ghana: Nana Akufo-Addo Did Not Urinate on Any Mosque

The NDC seems to have found a new propaganda story. This time, Nana Akufo-Addo is supposed to have urinated on the walls of a mosque at Damongo in the Northern Region. This story is not true, and must be treated with the contempt it deserves. Nana Addo did not urinate on or near any mosque when he visited Damango. The fact of the matter is that, Nana Addo paid a courtesy call on the Yagbon Wura at Damongo as part of his “listening tour”. Whilst waiting to call on the Yagbon Wura, Nana Addo had to respond to nature’s call (urinate). He was offered the Yagbon Wura’s household’s urinal, but he decided to use a makeshift urinal behind the compound, which serves as the urinal for ordinary people in the community. He was met with clean water and soap to wash his hands when he was done. This event has been twisted into a story of Nana Addo urinating on a mosque wall, by newspapers sympathetic to the Mills/Mahama administration for propaganda purposes. This is an obvious attempt to portray Nana Addo as being against Muslims. Clearly, the NDC is dazed by the massive disappointment of Ghanaians in their slow, incompetent, weak and visionless government. In their desperation, they have resorted to personal attacks and lies and the usual propaganda against our Flagbearer, a man of great stature who will never stoop that low to desecrate a Holy Mosque.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


15,000 Died on Way to EU Since 1994

Says Jesuit Refugee Service

(ANSAmed) — ROME — More than 15,000 people have lost their lives trying to reach the safety of Europe between 1994 and today. And an incalculable number is still at risk of serious human rights violations, as recent events in Libya have shown. These facts were denounced by the Jesuit Refugee Service on the occasion of the global commemoration on December 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Even those who do make it to Europe are not safe,” explains a document issued by the religious organisation. “EU policy of returning asylum seekers to the member state of first entry overlooks wide variations in national asylum practices in terms of quality, access and safeguards. Consequently, many refugees risk abuse, and may be returned, directly or indirectly, to their countries of origin — in violation of international refugee and human rights law.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Tunisian Asylum Seekers Face Image Problem

Newly arrived Tunisian asylum seekers have been dubbed criminals in recent press reports and described as “the worst we have had to deal with” by asylum centre staff.

But has this group of Tunisians really earned a reputation as troublemakers and if so, what is going wrong?

Unofficial police statistics from Zurich, published this week in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, backed up the alarming headline: “Number of criminal North Africans set to double by the end of the year”.

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said her ministry was taking the problem of security very seriously and that the processing of Tunisian asylum requests had been given “top priority”.

The minister has also discussed the problem of Tunisia’s image with the Tunisian ambassador.

The majority of the more than 2,000 Tunisians applying for asylum in Switzerland this year have come through Italy, out of a total of 24,500 Tunisian nationals who landed on the island of Lampedusa in the first half of the year.

According to the Federal Migration Office’s third quarter report on asylum statistics, about half of this total were given a limited-term Italian residence permit on humanitarian grounds.

Moving on

“As very few of these Tunisians have found work in Italy, onward migration has taken place, to France and also to Switzerland,” the report said.

Under the Dublin Accord, established to prevent repeat asylum attempts in the European Union region, these “Italian” Tunisians are not eligible to seek asylum in Switzerland and will be sent back to Italy — their first point of entry to the EU — in due course.

But according to professionals working with asylum seekers, that procedure is taking up to seven or eight months to complete. In the meantime, the Tunisians are attracting bad press and, according to Sommaruga, tarnishing the reputation of asylum seekers in general…

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