Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111212

Financial Crisis
»‘Cameron is a Coward’: European Politicians Slam British EU Veto
»Europe’s Top Bank Regulator: ‘The Crisis Has Reached a Systemic Level’
»Italy: Fornero Open to Minimum Wage, Matter of Citizenship
»Italy ‘Can Withstand High Yields for Some Time’, Says BIS
»Italy: Two-Year Low for Wage Growth
»More Greeks Moving to Cyprus in Search of Work
»The End of Old Europe: Why Merkel’s Triumph Will Come at a High Price
»‘Half Black, Half White and Almost Everything it Does Stinks’: Racism Row Erupts as Tea Party Calls Barack Obama a Skunk
»The View From the Tower
Europe and the EU
»Corruption: Italy, Greece Are ‘Europe’s Most Corrupt’
»Greece: A Mosque Will be Built in Thessaloniki
»Infiltrating the Far-Right: German Intelligence Has 130 Informants in Extremist Party
»Is There Such a Thing as ‘Pure’ Chocolate? Italy Bitter Over European Ruling
»Italy: Tension After Turin Roma Camp Torched Over False Rape Claim
»Norway Farmers Slaughter Dairy’s ‘Butter Fingers’
»Sharia Law Already Devouring UK
»Spain and Italy in EU Immigrants Remittances Top
»UK: Mosque Protest Leaflet ‘Is Trying to Whip Up Hysteria’
»UK: Prominent London Mosque Goes Without Egyptian Imams
»UK: Sir Anthony Jay: Slash the BBC by Two Thirds!
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Gingrich’s Fresh Hope
»Palestinian Authority: Pursuing Peace, Or Pushing Propaganda?
Middle East
»Iran: Blast at Steel Factory in Yazd Province
»Iran: Tehran “Cloning Crashed Drone”
»Saudi Arabia: Woman Beheaded for ‘Witchcraft, Sorcery’
»Stakelbeck: Iran/Hezbollah Spread Tentacles in Latin America
»Turkish Soap Operas Invade the Middle East
»Yemen: 12 Al Qaeda Terrorists Escape From Aden Jail
Far East
»Philippines: Mindanao: American Teen, 14, Escapes Captors, Wanders Barefoot in Jungle
»Face Time Required to Become Canadian Citizen
»Supreme Court to Rule on Arizona’s Immigration Law
Culture Wars
»RAI Bans “Condom” On AIDS Day

Financial Crisis

‘Cameron is a Coward’: European Politicians Slam British EU Veto

Following David Cameron’s veto of EU treaty reform, there is plenty of frustration in Europe over Britain’s stubborn attitude in the battle against the debt crisis. Prominent members of the European Parliament have strongly criticized the British prime minister and sent him a clear message: Europe doesn’t need you.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Top Bank Regulator: ‘The Crisis Has Reached a Systemic Level’

A stress test performed on European banks last week found a capital shortfall of some 115 billion euros. In a SPIEGEL interview, European Banking Authority head Andrea Enria defends the decision to perform the stress test and discusses the huge challenges facing the European banking sector.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fornero Open to Minimum Wage, Matter of Citizenship

(AGI) Rome — The Employment Minister, Elsa Fornero, has said that she is “personally” in favour of the introduction of a minimum wage in Italy. “I think that this is a matter of citizenship and, if we get the economy back on track, perhaps we can talk about it in more concrete terms,” said Fornero, who appeared on Lucia Annnziata’s “In mezz’ora” programme earlier.

Fornero said that she had already tackled the issue of the minimum wage in Brussels and that she had “not done so in terms of the government programme”, but rather, she explained, “I was talking about my own personal preferences”. Fornero added: “These preferences of mine have not changed and, while I am a minister, as far as I can influence the government’s agenda, I think that this is a matter of citizenship”.

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

Italy ‘Can Withstand High Yields for Some Time’, Says BIS

Debt crisis has put Italian bonds under pressure

(ANSA) — Rome, December 12 — Italy is not in danger of defaulting on its huge national debt in the short term, even though it is having to pay high yields with its bonds coming under pressure on the markets, according to a leading international financial body.

The spread between 10-year Italian Treasury bonds and the German equivalent, a key indicator of market confidence in Italy, rose from 421 to 465 in early trading on Monday.

The yield went up to 6.71%, back towards the 7% threshold that forced other states hit by the eurozone debt crisis to seek bailouts.

The yield on five-year bonds crossed the 7% mark, meanwhile, reaching 7.03%.

But the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) suggested Monday that, for the moment, Italy was not in danger of buckling under the weight of repayments of a national debt of around 120% of GDP.

“Simple simulations of the debt-service costs to the Italian Treasury in different yield-curve scenarios suggest that Italy should be able to withstand elevated yields for some time, provided it retains access to the market,” the BIS said in its quarterly review. “Given the relatively high average residual maturity of the Italian public debt, it would take a long time for elevated yields to translate into significant additional debt-service costs”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Two-Year Low for Wage Growth

Incomes still well behind inflation

(ANSA) — Rome, December 12 — In the third quarter of 2011 Italian wages posted their lowest quarterly growth since the third quarter of 2009, Istat said Monday.

The year-on-year growth in the quarter was just 1.4%, compared to a current annual inflation rate of 3.3%, the highest since October 2008.

The quarter-on-quarter growth, 0.3%, was the lowest since the first quarter of 2009, the national statistics agency said. Because of sluggish GDP growth, Italian wage growth has steadily lagged inflation over the last few years, eroding the incomes of salaried workers.

The new Monti government has pledged to help out the middle classes who have been struggling to make ends meet. Italy has had one of the lowest GDP growth rates among developed countries in the last decade.

It is expected to go into recession next year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

More Greeks Moving to Cyprus in Search of Work

Especially in overcrowded education sector

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 12 — The ongoing global economic crisis has led to record unemployment levels in Cyprus, but the figures in Greece are worse, and have led an increasing number of Greek citizens to emigrate to the Mediterranean island in search of work.

The rate of unemployment in Cyprus (which has a population of just under 800,000) is high, increasing from 7.9% in September to 8.2% in October, Eurostat says. In September, more than one in five people under the age of 25 (22.7%) was unemployed. The overall unemployment rate in Greece is more than double the figure in Cyprus, reaching 18.4% in August after standing at 17.7% in July. The rate of unemployment among Greeks under the age of 25 is today at 45.1%.

This has caused a mass exodus of Greeks, many of whom have come to the island to look for work, particularly in the employment sector, as Stelios Stylianou, the head of the Educational Service Commission (ESC), confirms. Stylianou says that the number of Greek teachers enrolled in the endless and effectively redundant “waiting list” created by the Ministry for Public Education has seen a “formidable” increase, more than doubling in 2010 compared to the previous year. The total number of teachers on the waiting list in January 2011 was 35,644, of which 7,128 (20%) were Greek citizens.

Yet finding a job remains a lottery, even if theoretically, seniority and experience should make the situation easier for Greek teachers than for their Cypriot counterparts. The annual turnover of teachers retiring is between 200 and 300, against 2,000-3,000 new sign-ups. “The way things are organised here, nobody will find a job, whether Greek or Cypriot,” says Marios Thoma, secretary of the “Movement of unemployed teachers” group, which represents around 6,000 candidates waiting for the sort of jobs for which he himself has been waiting for 20 years. “There were very few new appointments this year, so whether there are 10,000 or 100,000 of us on the list, things will not change. Only a handful of them will get a job. There’s no point talking about it,” he says.

According to estimates from the Greek embassy in Nicosia, there are around 32,000 Greek citizens living in Cyprus. In the last two years, almost 1,500 Greek businesses have upped sticks to the island as a direct consequence of the economic crisis at home, and now represent 10% of the total number of businesses operating in the country. The most significant concentration of Greek investments is in the financial sector, consultancy services, trade and construction.

As far as the employment market in Cyprus is concerned, Greeks have always worked in the hotel sector and in catering, but have now started to look for work in the public sector as well, the embassy reveals.

Even the health sector has become an attractive area for Greeks, as has television. A few days ago, the president of the union of Cypriot actors, Dinos Lyras, said that many young Greek actors are coming to the island to look for work, while the heads of a number of television stations have begun to hire renowned Greek actors to increase viewing figures in the soaps that they produce.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The End of Old Europe: Why Merkel’s Triumph Will Come at a High Price

The euro crisis summit has caused a deep split in the European Union. Britain has been sidelined, and other member states feel steamrolled by Germany and France. The future of the common currency is as uncertain as ever.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


‘Half Black, Half White and Almost Everything it Does Stinks’: Racism Row Erupts as Tea Party Calls Barack Obama a Skunk

An ultra-conservative ‘Tea Party’ group has defended its depiction of President Barack Obama as a skunk as satirical — after it was accused of being racist.

The Kansas-based Patriot Freedom Alliance came under fire for posting a photo of a skunk on its website.

The caption above it read: ‘The skunk has replaced the eagle as the new symbol for the president. It is half black, it is half white, and almost everything it does, stinks.’

Area president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Darrell Pope called the depiction a ‘blatant statement of racism’.

He said: ‘As far as I’m concerned it’s proof of the kind of organisation that they are, which I felt it always had racial overtones in the first place.

‘You would think that an organisation that claims to be about patriotism and what this country is supposed to stand for would have a better way of expressing it than what they’re doing.’

Thomas Hymer, who maintains the website, defended the post which has now been taken down by saying: ‘It’s satire is what it is. Satire in a politically incorrect form.’

And local tea party supporter Chuck Sankey said former U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin had been the target of worse insults.

He told the Hutchinson News: ‘It just makes a point that we’re in trouble and what’s happening doesn’t smell right. That’s what it means to me.’

Asked about the note to half-black, half-white, seen as a reference to Obama’s dual heritage of having a black father and white mother, he said: ‘Isn’t that the truth? ‘What’s wrong with the truth?’…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

The View From the Tower

by Diana West

If I were a psychiatrist I could find the perfect label for the depths of denial or the heights of delusion that manifest themselves in Frederick and Kimberly Kagan’s latest declarations on Iraq published in the Washington Post as “opinion.” “Fantasy” is a more like it. Their premise is that the American nation-building exercise in Iraq failed not because nation-building is pure academic utopianism (leftist cant) that withers in real-world conditions (Islam), but because the exercise didn’t go on long enough.

They pre-emptively score Prez Obama for the happy talk that’s the predictable outcome of his meeting today with Iraq’s Maliki. Fair enough. The image of Iraq he is sure to present, they write, “is a mirage.” But if we’re talking about disconnection from reality, the Kagans have once again pulled their own plug.

They write:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Corruption: Italy, Greece Are ‘Europe’s Most Corrupt’

Berlin, 1 Dec. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy and Greece scored the lowest among euro-area countries in a global corruption ranking as their inability to tackle graft and tax evasion exacerbated the debt crisis, watchdog group Transparency International said.

Italy came in 69th and Greece placed 80th, down from 67th and 78th respectively in the 2010 ranking, the Berlin-based group’s Corruption Perceptions Index showed today. Ireland dropped five places to 19th, earning a score of 7.5 out of 10, a drop from 8 points in last year’s ranking, Transparency said.

“Euro-zone countries suffering debt crises, partly because of public authorities’ failure to tackle the bribery and tax evasion that are key drivers of debt crisis, are among the lowest-scoring EU countries,” the group said in the report.

Europe’s engulfment in the sovereign-debt crisis has exposed the failure of indebted governments to raise revenue and tackle reforms, prompting crowds of protesters to fill the streets to demand their ouster. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi resigned as prime minister last month, two days after his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, was forced out.

New Zealand maintained its top position in the ranking, alongside Denmark and Finland. North Korea debuted on the list with a score of 1, ranking last with Somalia, a rung lower than Afghanistan and Myanmar, according to Transparency.

The U.S. dropped two spots to 24, though the world’s biggest economy retained its 7.1 score. The index, which measures the perception of corruption in the public sector, showed that two-thirds of the 183 nations reviewed scored below five on a 0-to-10 scale, with 10 indicating the least corrupt, Transparency said.

Corruption Charges

Italy’s ranking placed it level with Ghana and lower than Saudi Arabia. Corruption allegations contributed to the slide in popular support for Berlusconi, who is on trial for bribery, abuse of power and paying for sex with a minor. He has faced dozens of corruption allegations since entering politics in 1994. Berlusconi has maintained his innocence and blames the charges on “left-wing” prosecutors who are out to destroy him politically.

The release of the report comes as a widening corruption probe threatens to topple the chairman of state-controlled defense contractor Finmeccanica SpA. (FNC) The company’s board meets today to consider limiting the powers of Chairman Pier Francesco Guarguaglini after allegations by prosecutors that company executives set up slush funds to bribe politicians.

In Greece, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos in September announced plans to impose a special tax on all homeowners to meet budget targets for this year after admitting the country’s tax-collection system was failing.

Open Wounds

“There have been failures in the tax-collection system, tax evasion, delays, as well as the deepening recession,” Venizelos said. Greece’s measures had “opened wounds on the body of society,” which a “national struggle” against tax evasion would help close, he said on Oct. 18.

Countries in the Middle East that have been caught in the throes of the Arab Spring this year were also placed low on the list, with most of them ranking below a four. With publics rallying or fighting to overthrow governments weighed down by nepotism, bribery and systems of patronage, Transparency said the movement signified the proliferation of corruption.

Egypt, where a revolution ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power in February, plummeted 14 places in the ranking to 112th. Tunisia, where the movement began, fell to 73rd place from 59th, while Libya slid 22 slots to 168th. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed by militia fighters in October.

“This year we have seen corruption on protesters’ banners be they rich or poor,” Transparency International’s chief, Huguette Labelle, said in a statement. “Whether in a Europe hit by debt crisis or an Arab world starting a new political era, leaders must heed the demands for better government.”

The index has become a benchmark gauge of perceptions of a country’s corruption, an assessment of risks for investors. It’s an aggregate indicator that combines data from 17 different surveys assembled by independent institutions, including country experts and business leaders.

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

Greece: A Mosque Will be Built in Thessaloniki

Nearly 5,000 muslims live in the area

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 12 — Yiannis Boutaris, the Mayor of Greek Thessaloniki city said that they launched initiatives to build a mosque in Thessaloniki where nearly 5,000 Muslims were living. Boutaris, as Anatolia news agency reports, visited Mayor Aziz Kocaoglu of Turkey’s Aegean province of Izmir, and the two mayors decided to conclude the initiative which had been previously launched to declare Izmir and Thessaloniki as sister cities. Kocaoglu wished that the required protocol for being sister cities would be signed as soon as possible. He said that the relations between Izmir and Thessaloniki would have a positive impact not only on Turkish-Greek relations but also on the relations in Balkans and the Mediterranean. Boutaris added that Thessaloniki — where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, was born in 1881 — was the Greek city which was a home to the highest number of Ottoman artifacts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Infiltrating the Far-Right: German Intelligence Has 130 Informants in Extremist Party

Following revelations about a neo-Nazi terror cell believed to have murdered at least 10 people, Germans want to see the right-wing extremist party NPD banned. But new figures reveal just how hard that would be. SPIEGEL has learned that German intelligence has fully 130 informants in the party.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Is There Such a Thing as ‘Pure’ Chocolate? Italy Bitter Over European Ruling

Italy is in hot water with EU authorities over its insistence that chocolate be classified as “pure” or “less pure” depending on its vegetable fat content. According to the European Commission, chocolate is chocolate — and should be labeled as such

In Italy, some are calling it “Eurocioccolato-gate.” The European Court of Justice has ruled against Italy for not banning the denomination “pure chocolate” from its cocoa-based products.

The European Commission had ruled eight years ago that there is no difference between so-called “pure chocolate,” which uses only cocoa butter, and “less pure” forms of chocolate that mix in a bit of vegetable fat. Provided the vegetable fat content is 5% or less, “less pure” chocolate — as the Italians call it —is just as worthy of being called chocolate as “pure” chocolate, the Commission decided.

Both varieties, therefore, should just be called “chocolate” — no qualifying adjective needed.

Italy, however, refused to heed the European Commission’s directive. Stubbornly, it continued labeling its chocolate as “pure” and “less pure.” Under pressure from the European Union, Italian authorities promises last June that within a month they would finally do away with the law that mandates the country’s nit-picky chocolate distinctions. But that never happen. Determined not to give in on the escalating chocolate war, authorities in Brussels filed suit against Italy in the European Court of Justice. The Court found Italy in violation of the European Commission’s original 2003 chocolate law. Until Italy stops distinguishing between the two types of chocolate, it will now have to pay a daily fine.

For Italian chocolate producers, the ruling is an outrage. COLDIRETTI, and Italian farmers association, called it a threat to the country’s “Made in Italy” brand to be so loose with the labels. The association has already fought similar battles over “milk-less cheese” and “grape-less wine.”

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

Italy: Tension After Turin Roma Camp Torched Over False Rape Claim

Teenager apologies for violence caused by fabricated story

(ANSA) — Turin, December 12 — There was tension in Turin on Monday after a Roma gypsy camp on the outskirts of the city was torched by youths at the weekend following a false rape claim by a 16-year-old.

The girl admitted on Sunday that she had fabricated the story of being raped by two Roma men.

She said she had done so to avoid being hit by her family after her brother ran into her by chance and saw her clothing stained by blood after a consensual sexual encounter.

“I saw the images of the gypsy camp in flames and I felt ill,” the girl said in a letter of apology published in Italian newspapers on Monday.

“I’m dead ashamed. Only now do I realise what has happened. I made up that story… At the time I didn’t think about the consequences”.

Turin prosecutor Giancarlo Caselli said the violence that took place on Saturday was “a grave offence with clear racist connotations”.

Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri also condemned the raid.

“Nothing can justify acts like this, not anger, marginalisation or prejudice,” Cancellieri said.

Police are working to track down the perpetrators.

According to some media reports, Roma groups are considering revenge attacks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway Farmers Slaughter Dairy’s ‘Butter Fingers’

Last week’s news Norway is running low on butter and TINE’s subsequent appeals for help and decreased import duty levels have fallen on stony ground.

Whilst tolls are now lower, Oppland-based milk farmer Karl Emil Grina says, “It appears as though TINE has been neglectful. We’ve known milk production would decrease because of lots of rain and the fodder shortage for a long time. This shouldn’t have surprised TINE. It must be much better to raise quotas and allow us who can increase production do it instead of reducing duties.”

Stating he could have raised production by 20 percent, Mr Grina tells Nationen, “I’m sure thousands of other farmers could have done the same. However, I now will be sending several cows to the abattoir because TINE has not taken the initiative to raise quotas here.”

Dag Fossen, a dairy farmer in Buskerud finds it “strange” news of a 25-million litre milk shortage has only been reported now and that “TINE has not managed to reallocate milk from cheese to butter production, for example.”

He alleges this would not have happened if quotas had been increased in September or October. This would have meant the current situation would have been avoided in time.

“We considered we had enough milk for butter until quite recently and are currently discussing whether we should raise quotas,” TINE Communications Director Elisabeth Morthen tells The Foreigner, “but this won’t solve the problem and not have an effect until the first two months of 2012.”

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

Sharia Law Already Devouring UK

Examples on the ground from a premier religious freedom attorney.

In 2008, while arguing for the need to formally introduce Sharia law into the law of the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed Sharia law was “inevitable” in the UK . He denied it was an “alien” system and called for “constructive accommodation” of Muslim law. He did this in a calculated and provocative manner, while denying a place for its more “extreme punishments.”

It is unlikely that many members of the Muslim community would be satisfied with an Anglican primate determining the limitations of the Quran and Sharia law.

This argument was rapidly followed by the Lord Chief Justice: Lord Phillips helpfully said there was a place for Sharia law, particularly in mediation. He lamented the “widespread misunderstanding” of Sharia law. The newly established Muslim Arbitration Tribunals immediately put a picture of the Lord Chief Justice on their website in appreciation of his endorsement.

In the United Kingdom, the many thousands of Sharia courts can quietly go about their business of implementing “justice” in a form totally “alien” to the Judeo-Christian tradition, denying human rights to many of our citizens — particularly women.

The “constructive accommodation” of Muslim law reached a logical conclusion with the declaration this year of Sharia law controlled zones in a number of areas geographically spread over the country, where the Islamist militants enforce their will. Their posters declare: “No music or concerts, no porn or prostitution, no drugs or smoking, no gambling, no alcohol.” A reign of terror has begun, with threats of implicit violence against anyone who “insults” Islam, changes religion, or fails to dress appropriately. I have already been contacted about assisting two individuals subject to Islamist threats.

The police stand passively by, adhering to their diversity training…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Spain and Italy in EU Immigrants Remittances Top

91% of remittances from Greece sent to non-EU countries

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 12 — The largest sum of remittances sent in 2010 by immigrants in the EU was sent from Mediterranean countries, led by Spain (23% of total remittances) with 7.2 billion euros. In the same year Italy was found on second place, with a 21% share and a total of 6.6 billion euros.

Only 10% (3 billion euros) was sent from Germany, followed by France (9% and 2.9 billion) and the Netherlands (5% and 1.5 billion euros). Among all EU member States, the largest slice of remittances sent to non-EU countries was recorded by Greece (91%), for a total of 783 million euros. But the highest value, considering the fact that the Spanish figure is not reported, was recorded by Italy, with 5 billion 347 million euros sent over EU borders.

Looking over a longer period, the total of remittances sent in 2010 by EU immigrants showed a slight increase from the past years, after the strong impact of the economic crisis in 2009, but still remained below 2007 levels. As a whole, the flow of money sent by EU immigrants last year reached 31.2 billion euros, against 30.4 in 2009 (+3%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Protest Leaflet ‘Is Trying to Whip Up Hysteria’

A campaign against a mosque planned for Cambridge has claimed its dome is deliberately designed to “dominate” the skyline. Homes have been leafleted by opponents of the Mill Road Islamic centre — leading some residents to claim the leaflet is whipping up antagonism against the city’s Muslim community. The anonymous publication brands the centre a “megamosque” and claims it will cause massive traffic congestion, late-night noise and disturbance to residents. It also says the mosque’s dome will “overshadow” nearby homes because it is “twice the height of neighbouring houses”. The leaflet claims the building is “intended to overbear its surroundings and to send a message of physical and numerical dominance”. The flyer asks: “Does Cambridge need a megamosque?”

During Ramadan, it says, traffic will build up so much it will be “impossible for emergency vehicles” to gain access to neighbouring Brookfields Hospital and Arthur Rank Hospice, claiming 3,000 worshippers would attend. Plans were last month submitted for the new mosque to replace the one on Mawson Road. Kate Morris, 40, of Suez Road, said: “I was shocked to find the leaflet on my mat. I object to the fact that it referred to a ‘megamosque’, whatever that might be, and frankly don’t believe the claims that it will have 3,000 visitors and swamp our streets with extra traffic. “I am very happy that a place of worship and study centre are being built on the site. Much better that than another supermarket or industrial estate. But what angered me the most was the fact that the authors chose to remain anonymous. Are they ashamed of their views? This is an underhand attempt to whip up local antagonism against a group who are proposing to turn a derelict area of the city into someth ing much better.”

The three-storey building on the site of the former Robert Sayle warehouse will eventually cost £13 million. A city council consultation is under way on the designs, which include a prayer hall with capacity for about 1,000 people and the dome. Other facilities include a mortuary, library café, teaching area and two homes. Sarah Elgazzar, a spokeswoman for Cambridge Muslim Academic Trust, said: “Everybody deserves a say and we welcome that but they have to be accurate and this campaign is making some inaccurate claims. “The dome is well set back in the building and certainly has not been designed to dominate the area.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Prominent London Mosque Goes Without Egyptian Imams

For first time in decades, London’s Islamic Cultural Centre is refusing to appoint Egyptian imams

The London Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) is refusing to appoint any Egyptian imams in a move that Egyptian community leaders in the UK have described as a “very serious precedent.” The Saudi management of the ICC, which hosts the biggest mosque in the country, has refused to give UK authorities permission to issue entry visas to Egyptian imams, Ahram Online has learned. One Al-Azhar source said: “ICC Director-General Ahmad Al-Dubayan did not give his consent to the British consulate in Cairo to issue visas to two [Egyptian] Al-Azhar candidates to work as imams in the mosque.” The new restrictions mean that, for the first time in decades, there will be no Egyptian imams at the ICC.

The ICC is one of the biggest Islamic centres in Europe. The land on which it and its associated mosque were built was originally donated by George VI to London’s Muslim community in 1944 in return for a site in Cairo on which an Anglican cathedral was built. According to a decades-long agreement among Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia is in charge of ICC management while Egypt is responsible for religious affairs. ICC imams used to be supplied by Egypt’s Al-Azhar or the Egyptian Ministry for Religious Endowments (awqaf).

The last Al-Azhar imam to be appointed to the ICC was Sheikh Mohammad El-Salamony, whose tenure was terminated by Al-Azhar in 2009.

Al-Salamony lost his eyesight after being assaulted by a young Irish man inside the mosque in 2007. Al-Salamony later filed a lawsuit against the ICC, which refused to take responsibility for the attack. El-Salamony’s lawyer has argued that the attack would not have occurred had the ICC’s security system been working properly. Due to the ongoing legal dispute, El-Salamony has refused to leave his accommodations within the ICC, insisting on his right to stay put until the court issued a verdict on the matter. In a statement, the ICC hinted that delays in the appointment of new Imams to replace the blind sheikh had been due to El-Salamony’s failure to comply with its request to evacuate the premises.

Meanwhile, the ICC has appointed a number of Saudi-educated Asian imams.

The only Egyptian imam currently serving at the ICC is self-contracted sheikh Khalifa Ali. However, Ali was forced to go on sabbatical after Egypt’s religious endowments ministry refused to renew his ICC appointment. Ali told Ahram Online that the ministry had refused the ICC’s request to extend his appointment. “There was no explanation for the ministry’s decision,” he said. Mostafa Ragab, an Egyptian community leader in London, strongly criticised the move. “The central mosque is without an Egyptian imam or sheikh for the first time in decades,” Ragab told Ahram Online. “This is a very serious precedent.” He went on to urge Al-Azhar to bring “this unacceptable situation” up with the Saudi authorities.

Al-Azhar officials are currently reviewing the ICC issue in order to provide a report on the matter to Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmad El-Tayeb. “I’m sure the Grand Imam will raise the issue with the religious affairs authorities or the Saudi foreign minister,” an adviser to El-Tayeb told Ahram Online. Ragab, for his part, stressed the matter’s urgency. “I’m sure the Grand Imam will find a way to discuss it with Saudis,” he said. “The issue demands intervention by a high-level authority, such as Egypt’s Al-Azhar.” The ICC board of trustees includes representatives from Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Morocco, Iran, Oman, Syria, Pakistan, Bahrain, Malaysia, Yemen and Jordan, as well as Egypt.

[JP note: News stories like this only increase the impression that the UK is edging ever closer to full Islamic Republic status and all this entails.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Sir Anthony Jay: Slash the BBC by Two Thirds!

The BBC’s reporting of David Cameron’s recent adventures in Europe has been a disgrace. Last night — following the example set by that very exemplar of quisling Europhile values the Today programme — the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News managed to reiterate about half a dozen times its view that Britain had been left more “isolated” than ever by Cameron’s eminently sensible decision not to sell his country’s interests for a mess of pottage. To listen to Nick Robinson and co, you might actually have imagined that it was somehow a bad thing for Britain not to wish to shackle itself to the rotting corpse of the EU; you might even have thought that it was a good and desirable thing for Cameron to accede to an arrangement which hamstrung Britain’s financial sector (on which so much tax revenue and around ten per cent of our economy depends). And it was the same again today. Can you guess who BBC Radio 4 news managed to wheel out of retirement to represent the Conservative point of view? Yes of course you can. It was that bastion of traditional Tory Eurosceptical values Michael Heseltine. In the BBC bubble, you get the strong impression, the Euro is still a vibrant success for which we would be well advised very soon to ditch the pound, while the only people who oppose closer union with the great European miracle are swivel-eyed, xenophobic Little Englanders.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Gingrich’s Fresh Hope

Last Friday, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, did something revolutionary. He told the truth about the Palestinians. In an interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an “invented” people, “who are in fact Arabs.”

His statement about the Palestinians was entirely accurate. At the end of 1920, the “Palestinian people” was artificially carved out of the Arab population of “Greater Syria.” “Greater Syria” included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. That is, the Palestinian people were invented 91 years ago. Moreover, as Gingrich noted, the term “Palestinian people” only became widely accepted after 1977…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Authority: Pursuing Peace, Or Pushing Propaganda?

The Palestinian Authority claims in English to pursue peace, but a new book says that in the Arabic-language media, their statements tell a different story.

Leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA), including its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, stand accused of systematically deceiving the international community by portraying themselves in English as pursuing peace while in their Arabic-language media they relentlessly propagate hate speech and venerate terror.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Robert Bernstein, founder of Advancing Human Rights and chairman emeritus of Human Rights Watch, endorsed the charge when they spoke in New York on the release of a 269-page book and CD entitled Deception, published by the research institute Palestinian Media Watch.

Its Israeli authors, Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, document hundreds of examples in print, websites, videos, and school texts that they say are not exceptional but wholly representative of the way the PLO has systematically betrayed promises made to President Obama and the peace-seeking Quartet (the United Nations, the U.S., European Union, and Russia) to commit to nonviolence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and end incitements of hatred.

“It’s a terrifying book,” said Wiesel. “The Palestinian Authority is revealed as inciting young children to hate Jews, not only in Israel but wherever they live. They must be denounced by all students of history.” Bernstein commented: “The book is not advocacy but a factual catalogue of public statements of government-sponsored hate speech that is not only wrong but dangerous. The Western media has entirely missed the story of duplicity because few know Arabic.”…

           — Hat tip: WG[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Blast at Steel Factory in Yazd Province

Blast and subsequent fire at steel factory in Yazd province kills foreign nationals, among others, Iranian news agency reports.

Another mysterious explosion rocked Iran on Sunday night, killing seven people and injuring 16 others, some of them foreign nationals.

The deaths occurred in an explosion and subsequent fire at a steel factory in the central Iranian province of Yazd, Iran’s IRIB news agency quoted Yazd Governor Azizollah Seifi as saying on Monday.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Iran: Tehran “Cloning Crashed Drone”

Tehran, 12 Dec. (AKI) — An Iranian politician said his country can “clone” the technology of an American spy drone that recently crashed in Iran.

Iran claims that it hacked into the unmanned aircraft causing it to crash. The US says a technological malfunction was the cause of the crash.

Iranian television on Monday cited Parviz Sorouri , a member of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Commission, as saying the USA Rq 170 Sentinel’s computer code is being copied.

“At the moment we are deciphering the code,” he said. “It’s the first step toward the reproduction of the apparatus.”

Sorouri said “in the near future we will be able to reproduce the drone on a large scale” but the “Iranian version with be better than the American one.”

Iran on 4 December announced it had downed the drone that crashed in the Tabas desert. Iranian tv on Thursday broadcast images of the American drone.

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

Saudi Arabia: Woman Beheaded for ‘Witchcraft, Sorcery’

Riyadh, 12 Dec. (AKI) — A Saudi Arabian woman was beheaded Monday for ““practising witchcraft and sorcery,” according to the Saudi interior ministry.

Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar was executed in the northern region of al-Jawf making hers the ultra-conservative country’s 73rd execution this year.

Nasser told her clients she could cure any ailment and charged them the equivalent of 800 dollars.

Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, mandates the death penalty for crimes including robbery, murder, drug trafficking and apostasy.

Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, the United States and Yemen are the countries that execute the highest numbers of people, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

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

Stakelbeck: Iran/Hezbollah Spread Tentacles in Latin America

Prior to 9/11, no terrorist group had killed more Americans than Hezbollah. Like its patron, Iran, the group is committed to America’s destruction.

Now the Iranian/Hezbollah axis is spreading its tentacles throughout Latin America and, according to experts, could go operational at a moment’s notice.

Click the link above to watch my new report showing how these jihadist forces are setting up shop in America’s backyard.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Turkish Soap Operas Invade the Middle East

They exercise soft power for neo-Ottoman expansion, experts

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 12 — People in more than 20 countries watch Turkish soap operas and experts say that these television shows are spreading Turkish values and lifestyle in the Middle East and North Africa. It is also believed that they exercise a “soft power”, supporting Ankara’s neo-Ottoman diplomacy.

Television serials like “Muhtesem Yuzyål” (“Magnificent” Ottoman “Century”), “Ask-i Memnu” (Forbidden Love) and “Yaprak Dokumu” (Falling Leaves) are breaking records in the number of viewers. The more than a hundred episodes that are in circulation have earned the producers the equivalent of more than 60 million USD this year only. These facts are reported by Turkish websites, which point out that a Japanese television channel has made a documentary on Turkish soap operas and their impact on tourism and export. And the American Time Magazine recently called these series “the secret of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

“With the increase in the number of soap operas circulating internationally, learning the Turkish language and culture has become very important in the Arab and Balkan countries,” a sociologist of the Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Nilufer Narle, wrote on the website of the Turkish newspaper in English Hurriyet Daily News. She added that “this is what we call ‘soft power’ in the context of cultural industry.” According to the internet site, the final episode of the Turkish soap opera “Noor” was seen by 85 million viewers, ranging from Syria to Morocco. Moreover, Hurriyet reports, 78% of people who were interviewed in a poll carried out in the Arab world and in Iran said that they had watched Turkish soap operas. Kemal Uzun, director of “Noor”, claims that viewers “feel part of what is happening” on the screen. “Our cultures and geography are closely related, we have strong ties,” he added. “These series have an enormous impact,” said Izzet Pinto, head of the company that distributes “Magnificent Century” and “Thousand and One Nights”, set in modern Istanbul. The writer of a report with the title “The image of Turkey in the Arab world,” Paul Salem, underlined that “the stars of Turkish television become pop idols” and these soap operas create “great sympathy for the Turkish identity, culture and values,” a role that was played in the past decades by Egyptian television and film. The spread of soap operas seems to follow the geography of Turkish foreign policies and even goes beyond that, following global taste: “We started broadcasting in the Balkan countries this year,” said Firat Gulgen, president of Calinos Holding which produces 80% of the series exported by Turkey. Pinto, chairman of distribution company Turkey’s Global Agency, pointed out that babies in the Balkan area are now named after characters from the series “Thousand and One Nights.” But Turkey also exports its soap operas to many countries in central and eastern Europe and the Far East, even to Japan and Malaysia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: 12 Al Qaeda Terrorists Escape From Aden Jail

15 detainees escaped through tunnel

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 12 — Twelve Al Qaeda members have escaped from a jail in Aden, southern Yemen. Reports were from local authorities quoted by Al Arabiya. The broadcaster said that overall 15 prisoners had escaped from the Al Mansoura jail. The prisoners escaped through a tunnel they had dug.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

Philippines: Mindanao: American Teen, 14, Escapes Captors, Wanders Barefoot in Jungle

Villagers in Basilan province help Kevin Lunsmann who was abducted in July with his mother and a cousin, by criminals linked to Abu Sayyaf.

Manila (AsiaNews/ Agencies) — A 14-year-old American teen, abducted in Mindanao five months ago by a terrorist group close to Abu Sayyaf, was able to escape from his captives. After two days wandering in the jungle without shoes, hungry and in shock, Kevin Lunsmann was found by residents of a village in Basilan province. After giving him something to eat, they handed him to Filipino authorities who flew him to Manila where he was turned over to US officials.

According to police, the youth was able to escape after he told his captors that he would take a bath in a stream. From there, he made a dash for freedom and followed a river down a mountain for two days.

“He was in fear so there was a bit of a chase before the villagers convinced him that they were friends,” Senior Superintendent Philippines police Edwin de Ocampo. Exhausted, hungry and still stunned, the boy initially fled from the villagers, de Ocampo explained.

From Virginia (US), Kevin Lunsmann was abducted on 12 July together with his Filipino-American his mother and a cousin whilst holidaying with relatives on an island near Zamboanga City.

The mother was freed two months ago after she was dropped off by boat at a wharf on Basilan. The boy’s cousin escaped last month when Filipino army forces managed to get near an Abu Sayyaf camp near Akbar town.

Predominantly Muslim, Mindanao has seen a rash of kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs and armed groups linked to Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic terrorist group close to Al Qaeda.

For years, the group has also carried out attacks and abductions across the region. Its members are known for their penchant for beheading hostages when the ransom is not paid.

However, more and more kidnappers are common criminals attracted by the abduction business because of widespread poverty. The ransoms vary between 14,000 and 200,000 pesos for Filipinos and more than US$ 4,000,000 for foreigners.

Foreign missionaries working in Mindanao are the highest-risk group. In the past few years, 13 foreign missionaries have been abducted or killed, including two Italian priests from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Fr Luciano Benedetti, abducted in 1998 and released after three months, and Fr Giancarlo Bossi, kidnapped in 2007 and released after two months.

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


Face Time Required to Become Canadian Citizen

If you want to become a Canadian, you’ll have to show your face.

Under sweeping regulations that take effect Monday, Muslim women will have to remove their niqabs or any other face-coverings such as burkas before reciting the oath of citizenship to become Canadian, QMI Agency has learned.

Those participating in citizenship ceremonies — the final step in the process to officially become a Canadian — will be given two warnings to unveil themselves.

The first would be upon arrival, when a department official will explain the requirement. If the person refuses, a citizenship judge will ask the individual to show her face before reading the oath.

If the person refuses the second request, the judge will ask them to leave, putting their citizenship in jeopardy. But they will be given other opportunities at future citizenship ceremonies if they change their mind.

If they don’t, they will remain permanent residents and give up their right to vote, run for office and hold certain jobs. Permanent residents can be deported for serious crimes.

The new rule requires the citizenship judge to see the person’s face as the oath is being spoken. Once the oath is completed and the national anthem sung, the individual can cover her face and begin a new life in Canada as a citizen.

The new rule is part of a wider package of reforms Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has implemented throughout the department.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Supreme Court to Rule on Arizona’s Immigration Law

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Arizona may impose tough anti-immigration measures. Among them, in a law enacted last year, is a requirement that police there question people they stop about their immigration status.

The Obama administration challenged parts of the law in court, saying that it could not be reconciled with federal immigration laws and policies. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked enforcement of parts of the law in April.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

RAI Bans “Condom” On AIDS Day

Internal email says ban is “ministry of health policy”

ROME — In 2011, the word “condom” is still taboo in Italy, at least for the state broadcaster RAI and the ministry of health, where Renato Balduzzi took over a few days ago. The word cannot be uttered, even on World AIDS Day, commemorated yesterday by various programmes on Radio 1. Presenters and editorial staff on the programmes involved received an email last Wednesday that left little room for doubt. “Dear colleagues, I would point out that a few hours ago, the ministry has underlined that no contribution should explicitly mention condoms. Contributors should restrict themselves to the general notion of prevention in sexual behaviour and to the need for HIV testing in case of potential risk. If you can, emphasise this point”.

The high-priority email is signed by Laura De Pasquale, a fast-tracked state television executive and partner of Silvio Berlusconi’s “personal cameraman”, Roberto Gasparotti. Predictably, eyebrows were raised. It’s not easy to make hours of programmes on AIDS without being able to mention condoms. But orders are orders. Besides, this is also the line of the ministry now in the hands of Mr Balduzzi, a Catholic, a good friend of Rosy Bindi, the man behind DICO civil unions and, until his appointment, a member of the Democratic Party’s (PD) rights committee, the body that seeks to soothe ethics-related strife within the party. Yesterday afternoon, the press office said: “We have no knowledge of any emails sent with these indications”…

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