Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120102

Financial Crisis
»2012 to be Worse Than 2011: German Finance Minister
»Corruption is Rising in the Crisis-Hit Eurozone, Study Says
»Denmark: Prime Minister Tells Nation That Tough Times Are Ahead
»EU Slams Hungary for Power-Grab on Central Bank
»Finance: EIB Grants Over 2 Bln Euro Loan to Turkey
»German Central Bank Official: ‘Britain Must be Aware of Its Importance in the EU’
»Italian Stores Open as Long as They Want
»Italy: Cash-Strapped Church Closes Until Easter
»New Year’s Speeches Voice Fears on Future of Europe
»Sarkozy Kicks Off Election Year With Warning
»Spain: It’s Official: Purchasing Power Has Taken a Big Euro-Era Hit
»Tunisia: Job Offers Down by 62%
»Van Rompuy: EU Could Avoid Full Treaty Change Via Legal Trick
»Anonymous Strikes Again: Hackers Publish Email Addresses and Passwords of 860,000 Clients of Shadowy U.S. Security Firm
»L.A. Arson Suspect is 24-Year-Old Hollywood Man
»Mount Rainier Body Confirmed as Suspected Gunman
Europe and the EU
»France: Karachi: Sarkozy Involved in Kickbacks Scandal, Press
»Germany: “Anonymous” Declares “Blitzkrieg” On Neo-Nazis
»Germany: Art Listing Hitler as ‘Freely Elected’ Attacked”
»Germany: Teachers ‘Need Help to Fight Youth Extremism’
»Italy: Sharp Fall in Working-Age Population Seen
»Spain: New Year Brings End to Bullfighting in Catalonia
»‘Star Wars’ And ‘LOTR’ Sword Master Bob Anderson Dies at 89
»Sweden: Rise in Shootings Puts Strain on Malmö Police
»Syrian Man ‘Assassinated’ In Germany… Sparking Fears Damascus is ‘Hunting Down Its Critics in Europe’
»UK: ‘Show Them Love’: Archbishop of Canterbury Defends Summer Rioters (Again) In New Year’s Message
»UK: ‘Why Can’t I Skype My Friends and Relatives Abroad From Prison?’ Whine of Bangladeshi Terrorist Jailed for Plotting to Blow Up Passenger Jet
»UK: The Criminals in Uniform: More Than 900 Police Officers and Pcsos Have Convictions From Burglary to Domestic Violence
North Africa
»Protest Sit-in by Police Officers in Tunis
Middle East
»Gulf: Defence: Oil Monarchies Spend 35 Billion Dollars
South Asia
»India: Google and Facebook Ordered to Remove Anti Religious Content
»Luxury Maldives Resorts Set to Close Their Health Spas Because Islamists Say They’re ‘Offensive’
»Territorial Army Solider Faces Murder Charge for Shooting Suspected Taliban Bomber
Latin America
»Activists Say Washington Holds Key to Ending Drug War in Mexico
»Mexican Cartels Seek Recruits Among California Latinos
»Mexicans Confront Racism With White, Black Doll Video
»UK: Migration Will Fall Sharply This Year ‘But it Won’t Hit PM’s Target’
Culture Wars
»Spain: Abortion a Bigger Problem Than Joblessness, Says Catholic Church
»Deep-Voiced Men Don’t Have ‘Macho’ Sperm

Financial Crisis

2012 to be Worse Than 2011: German Finance Minister

(BERLIN) — The new year will probably be worse than the last, but Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, should be able to withstand it, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview Monday. “2012 will probably be more difficult than 2011, but the German economy is in good shape,” Schaeuble told the mass-circulation daily Bild.

The minister urged eurozone countries to “do their homework… consolidate their budgets and push through the necessary reforms” to resolve the long-running debt crisis. The bail-out mechanisms put in place by member states “can only buy time for states to take the necessary measures and win back confidence,” Schaeuble added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Corruption is Rising in the Crisis-Hit Eurozone, Study Says

Italy and Greece haven’t been generating many positive headlines recently. Add to these their disturbing score — the lowest among eurozone members — in a newly published global corruption ranking. Finland tops the group. In addition to their widening financial woes, Italy and Greece appear to have some growing corruption issues.

In its 2011 Corruptions Perceptions Index, which measures perceived levels of corruption in the public sector, Transparency International ranked Italy 69 and Greece 80, compared with their 67 and 78 rankings in 2010. Those are the lowest scores among the 17-member eurozone.

The Berlin-based corruption watchdog believes the rising debt problems of these and other members of the common currency zone are partly to blame for the creeping corruption. Among the lowest scoring eurozone countries, the group said in a statement, were those suffering from the bloc’s debt crisis, caused in part by “public authorities’ failure to tackle bribery and tax evasion.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Prime Minister Tells Nation That Tough Times Are Ahead

In her debut New Year’s speech, Helle Thorning-Schmidt says that problems will continue throughout 2012

Against a backdrop of burning candles and plummeting opinion polls, Helle Thorning-Schmidt gave her first New Year’s speech to the nation as prime minister on Sunday. Also hanging over Thorning-Schmidt’s head — and permeating much of what the Socialdemokrat said — was the global economic crisis and its effects on Denmark. “Our goal is to bring Denmark safely through the crisis and out on the other side with our wealth, decency and solicitude in tact,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “It won’t be easy. But we can if we will. The new year — 2012 — will not be the year, when we free ourselves from our problems. We must admit that now.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Slams Hungary for Power-Grab on Central Bank

BRUSSELS — The European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday (22 December) lashed out at the Hungarian government over plans to seize control of its central bank, the latest in a series of power-grabs by the ruling party amid worsening economic conditions and downgrades to ‘junk’ territory by two major ratings agencies.

Enforcing the current draft law on the central bank (Magyar Nemzeti Bank) “could undermine [its] independence”, the ECB said in a statement, focusing on a provision which would increase the number of deputy governors, effectively giving the government a say in the setting of interest rates…

Last week, EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso sent a letter to Orban warning that the two bills are in breach of EU law and “strongly advised” him to withdraw them from parliament.

Since the IMF walk-out, the Hungarian government’s repayment capacity was downgraded to “junk” by Standard and Poor’s, after Moody’s — another major ratings agency — did the the same in November. Both have projected a negative outlook for the country’s economy, forecast to have the highest debt level and slowest economic growth among the EU’s eastern members next year.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Finance: EIB Grants Over 2 Bln Euro Loan to Turkey

(ANSAmed) — BRUXELLES, JANUARY 2 — The European Investment Bank (EIB) provided Turkey with 2.043 billion euros of loan in 2011, as Anatolia news agency reports. The bank’s loans to Turkey were up 5.6% year-on-year in 2011. The EIB gave the highest loan to Turkey’s Ankara-Istanbul high-speed train project. The loan was around 400 million euros. Loans the EIB provided to Turkey in the last five years reached 11.5 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

German Central Bank Official: ‘Britain Must be Aware of Its Importance in the EU’

The world continues to demand that Europe find a solution for its ongoing debt crisis. But in an interview with SPIEGEL, senior Bundesbank official Andreas Dombret says that American investors are being too impatient. He also demands that the UK do its part and reiterates his bank’s position that the ECB should not become a lender of last resort.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian Stores Open as Long as They Want

‘Save Italy’ measure intended to boost consumer spending

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — A new law went into effect Monday allowing Italian stores to open and close whenever they please. Previously the law required that stores close after a certain number of hours per day, as well as some holidays, Sundays and one day during the work week. Bars and restaurants can also stay open non-stop. Intended to boost consumer spending, the relaxed rules are part of the emergency government’s package of stimulus and budget measures that aim to raise 30 billion euros and lift hurl the country out of its debt crisis.

Critics argue that the measure will only benefit large companies with the personnel to cover more shifts, while smaller businesses will lose their ability to compete. The measure comes as stores across Italy prepare for after-Christmas sales, which began in some southern cities Monday as the rest of the country follows suit throughout the week. According to the retail association Confcomercio, the average Italian spends 168 euros on clothing during the winter sales season. Yet estimates for 2012 from the consumer group Codacons have lowered the amount to 110 euros — a 30% drop — in light of the global economic crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Cash-Strapped Church Closes Until Easter

Hit by lower offerings, Treviso priest can’t afford electricity

(ANSA) — Treviso, January 2 — A church near Treviso is closing until Easter because of a plunge in offerings due to the economic crisis.

Father Stefano Taffarel, parish priest at Fontanelle di Treviso, said his flock’s less giving ways meant he could no longer pay to heat and light the church of Sts Peter and Paul.

For the rest of the winter, Father Taffarel said, the church will open only for funerals and special feast days.

Normal services will be moved to a smaller church in the centre of the village, which he can afford to run.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Year’s Speeches Voice Fears on Future of Europe

BRUSSELS — EU leaders have said in their festive messages the single currency is still at risk unless they take decisive action. For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that the latest phase of the crisis coincides with the 10th birthday of the now-familiar red, blue and brown banknotes with their little motifs of EU maps and Romanesque or Gothic windows.

“In a few hours it will be exactly 10 years since many of us at just around midnight withdrew our first euros from a bank machine. Since then, the euro has made our lives easier and our economy stronger,” she said on national TV on 31 December. She linked the fate of the currency to the fate of the Union itself.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Kicks Off Election Year With Warning

Facing a tough election fight in four months, French President Nicolas Sarkozy kicked off the new year warning voters that 2012 was “full of risks” and that France’s future will hang in the balance. France entered an unpredictable election year on Sunday, with polls showing Sarkozy’s main contender, Socialist candidate François Hollande, leading in the race for the presidency.

“What is happening in the world announces that 2012 will be a year full of risks but also full of possibilities. Full of hope, if we know how to face the challenges. Full of dangers, if we stand still,” Sarkozy said during the last New Year’s Eve address of his first term. “France’s destiny could once again be tipped” in 2012, Sarkozy said, highlighting his experience in dealing with the eurozone debt crisis.

“Emerging from the crisis, building a new model for growth, giving birth to a new Europe — these are some of the challenges that await us,” he said.

With the crisis and the French economy set to take centre stage in the vote, right-wing Sarkozy also sought to steal some thunder from the left, vowing action on unemployment and saying the financial sector would not set French policy. He promised “important decisions” on fighting joblessness before the end of January, after new figures last week showed unemployment at a 12-year high, with the number of registered jobseekers in France hitting 2.84 million.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: It’s Official: Purchasing Power Has Taken a Big Euro-Era Hit

Salaries rise by 14 percent; the cost of living by 48 percent

Official figures are confirming what Spanish citizens had suspected for years: that adopting the euro caused a general price rise that has not been matched by a similar wage hike. As the 10th anniversary of the replacement of the peseta approaches, a report by a major consumer organization based on official statistics shows that salaries rose by an average 14 percent over the last decade, while the price of food went up by 48 percent, housing by 66 percent and transportation by 45 to 58 percent.

The OCU consumers’ organization said in its report that the most glaring proof of this gap between what employees earn and the cost of living is the market basket. In an April 2001 study, this representative basket cost families an average of 4,600 euros annually; in May 2011 the same set of products cost 6,800 euros a year, reflecting a 48-percent price rise. These figures are based on a comparison of supermarket prices as reported by OCU once a year.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which tracks changes in the price of goods and services bought by households, registered an accumulated rise of 32 percent between 2002 and 2011. Yet data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) show that salaries only rose an average of 14 percent in the last 10 years.

Some of the most notable price hikes affected basic food products such as bread (85 percent), eggs (114 percent), milk (48 percent), rice (45 percent), oil (33 percent) and potatoes (116 percent).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Job Offers Down by 62%

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 2 — Employment and apprenticeship offers in Tunisia in the first 11 months of 2011 were down 37% compared to last year’s corresponding period, while jobs fell by 62%. Employment demands registered an increase of 113% that African Manager, which released the figures, called “historic”.

For those with high school qualifications alone, there was a 187% increase in job applications

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Van Rompuy: EU Could Avoid Full Treaty Change Via Legal Trick

BRUSSELS — The European Union may be able to winkle out of the fraught process of a full treaty change via a clever legal trick, EU Council President Herman van Rompuy has suggested. According to a two-page report from the Belgian EU chief submitted to national capitals on Tuesday (6 December), by amending a protocol attached to the Lisbon Treaty rather than changing the treaty itself, the lengthy and politically uncertain path of referendums and ratification by national parliaments can be avoided entirely.

Instead, so long as EU leaders unanimously back a redrafting of a single protocol, the changes can be achieved almost instantly, following consultations with the European Central Bank and the European Parliament, both of which would be formalities. The article (Art. 126) in the treaty that deals with excessive deficits is fleshed out in a protocol attached to the legal text of the document but which remains separate from the treaty itself.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anonymous Strikes Again: Hackers Publish Email Addresses and Passwords of 860,000 Clients of Shadowy U.S. Security Firm

Hackers who stole thousands of credit card numbers from U.S. security firm Stratfor have now published the email addresses of more than 860,000 of its clients.

The loose-knit Anonymous movement released the data — which included information on former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — online.

The lists of emails included scrambled details of their passwords — which experts said could be cracked within a matter of seconds by using software downloaded for free.

People working for big corporations, the U.S. military and major defence contractors were all contained on lists stolen from the intelligence company often dubbed the Shadow CIA.

The Antisec faction of the movement said last weekend it had hacked into the firm and promised that the release of the stolen data would cause ‘mayhem’.

Computer hackers ‘could bring rail network to a standstill’ warns security expert — but would we even notice?

A spokesperson for the group said via Twitter that yet-to-be-published emails from the firm would show Stratfor, which gathers non-classified intelligence on international crises, ‘ is not the ‘harmless company’ it tries to paint itself as’.

Antisec has not disclosed when it will release those emails, but security analysts said they could contain information that could be embarrassing for the U.S. government.

Jeffrey Carr, chief executive of Taia Global Inc, said: ‘Those emails are going to be dynamite and may provide a lot of useful information to adversaries of the U.S. government.’

Stratfor issued a statement on Friday confirming that the published email addresses had been stolen from the company’s database.

It said it was helping law enforcement probe the matter and conducting its own investigation.

The statement said: ‘At Stratfor, we try to foster a culture of scrutiny and analysis, and we want to assure our customers and friends that we will apply the same rigorous standards in carrying out our internal review.’

John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, said: ‘There are thousands of email addresses here that could be used for very targeted spear phishing attacks that could compromise national security.’

The Pentagon said it saw no threat so far.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

L.A. Arson Suspect is 24-Year-Old Hollywood Man

Los Angeles police on Monday afternoon booked a 24-year-old man on suspicion of arson after an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy detained him in connection with a string of more than 50 deliberately set fires

Booking records identified the man as Harry Burkhart, a Hollywood area resident. He is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail at the Inmate Reception Center in downtown L.A.

No new arsons have been reported since the suspect was taken into custody, but police stressed that the investigation was ongoing.

The fires have caused $2 million in damage, authorities said.

At a news conference Monday, officials said the arson task force is sifting through about 100 clues in the case.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said : “I feel very good that we’ve got the right guy. [The suspect] had the right stuff in his van, and we are confident in the arrest.”

According to law enforcement sources, Burkhart has been involved in a dispute with federal immigration officials.

Burkhart appears to have been battling the U.S. government over the immigration status of his mother.

The Los Angeles Police Department is in communication with federal immigration officials concerning the dispute, the law enforcement sources said.

LAPD detectives found materials inside Burkhart’s minivan that could have been used to set fires, the sources said. All of the sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

[Return to headlines]

Mount Rainier Body Confirmed as Suspected Gunman

SEATTLE (Reuters) — A body found face down in the snow at Mount Rainier National Park is that of an Iraq war veteran suspected of killing a park ranger, then fleeing into the wilderness, authorities said on Monday.

Park spokeswoman Lee Snook said the body was confirmed to be that of 24-year-old Benjamin Colton Barnes, who was suspected of shooting ranger Margaret Anderson dead on Sunday when she stopped his vehicle at a roadblock.

Snook said Barnes’ body had been found lying face down in the snow and partially submerged in the Paradise River above Narada Falls following an exhaustive manhunt by 200 local, state and federal law enforcement agents.

She said the body was discovered wearing only a T-shirt, pants and one tennis shoe and that a gun was found about 50 yards away.

“The conjecture is he died from exposure to the elements,” Snook said, adding that temperatures dipped into the 20s overnight in Mt. Rainier National Park.

The body, which was initially spotted from the air by search and rescue teams, had “no heat signature,” Washington State Patrol spokesman Guy Gill said in a tweet.

Authorities say Barnes fled into the backcountry following the shooting death of Anderson, 34, on New Year’s Day, which prompted the massive search and the evacuation of some 125 tourists from the park.

“Like any criminal, he’s not important. Our emphasis is on Margaret,” Pierce County Fire Chief Garry Olson said, remembering the slain ranger as “friendly, dedicated and a hard worker.”

Residents of Eatonville, where Anderson lived, were shaken by the death of the popular park ranger.

“It’s just very sad, everyone in town knew her,” said Teresa Mackey, manager of the Cruiser Cafe in Eatonville, just west of the park.

Of Barnes, she said: “People are very happy he’s been found.”

The former U.S. Army private was also suspected in a separate shooting incident on early New Year’s Day that injured three men and a woman at a house party in the Skyway neighborhood of Renton, Washington near Seattle, according to the King County Sheriff’s Department.

Barnes received a Chapter 14 misconduct discharge in November of 2009 after being charged by civilian authorities with driving under the influence and improperly transporting a privately owned weapon, Army officials said.

He served one tour of duty in Iraq, the officials said.

Photographs released by authorities showed a heavily tattooed Barnes with the words “Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust” on the back of his neck.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: Karachi: Sarkozy Involved in Kickbacks Scandal, Press

Approved creation of ad hoc company as Budget Minister

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 2 — French president Nicholas Sarkozy was allegedly involved in the commissioning of arms sales to Pakistan in the 1990s linked to a 2002 attack in Karachi, in which 15 people lost their lives. According to one of the witnesses questioned during the inquiry, reports today’s daily Liberation, in 1994 the Budget Minister (a post held by Sarkozy at the time) allegedly authorised the creation of a company in Luxembourg named “Heine” in order to pay intermediaries for armaments contracts (until 2000 a legal practice). “It is clear that the Budget Minister must have given his approval for the creation of Heine,” said former high-ranking official of the defence ministry Gerard-Philippe Menayas, according to the minutes of the interrogation quoted by the paper,” given the importance of the issue, this decision could only have been made at the Cabinet level.” A 2010 report by Luxembourg police had already spoken of Sarkozy’s role in the setting up of Heine, but the president has always denied any involvement. The complex judicial matter of the “Karachi affair” aims to establish whether the payments (legal at the time) paid on the side for the contracts finalised in 1994 with Pakistan, for the sale of submarines, and with Saudi Arabia, for the sale of frigates, gave rise to “back payments” (illegal): money which secretly returned to France and went towards funding the presidential campaign of former prime minister Edouard Balladur in 1995.

The dossier is made more sensitive by the suspicion — which judges are looking into — of a link between France’s decision to break off payments to Pakistani intermediaries in 1995 and the May 2002 attack in Karachi, which killed 15 people (11 of whom French). The investigative thesis is that this terrorist attack may have been a form of retaliation by the beneficiaries of the payments. Two figures closely linked to Sarkozy have already been placed under investigation in relation to the case: Thierry Gaubert and Nicolas Bazire, as well as the former minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: “Anonymous” Declares “Blitzkrieg” On Neo-Nazis

“Anonymous” hackers have declared “Blitzkrieg” on neo-Nazis for the New Year, disabling a number of their websites and publishing lists of extreme-right supporters.

A “Nazi-Leaks” portal has appeared on the internet listing hundreds of names of people subscribed to various shops selling far-right clothing, as well as writers for the Junge Freiheit newspaper which carries contributions from far-right commentators.

The hackers say they have managed to close down 15 websites associated with the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), the Frankfurter Rundschau reported on Monday. They have reportedly called their campaign “Operation Blitzkrieg”.

Long lists of names, some with addresses, purporting to be customer registers of firms such as the infamous Thor Steinar clothing firm were posted on the “Nazi-Leaks” portal.

People listed on the portal as having written for the Junge Freiheit newspaper included Peter Scholl-Latour, according to the Frankfurter Rundschau. He is a respected journalist and Afghanistan expert who has written for, among other publications, the Stern magazines.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Art Listing Hitler as ‘Freely Elected’ Attacked”

A work of art in the Reichstag building which includes Adolf Hitler in a list of “freely and democratically” elected members of the German parliament has been repaired after someone attacked it.

The display — a series of drawers featuring the names of the 4,781 MPs elected between 1919 and 1999 — has been largely ignored since its installation in 1999 when the lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag moved from Bonn to the Reichstag building in Berlin.

The period between 1933 and 1949 when there was no parliament is symbolised in the display by a black box.

The dents to Hitler’s drawer and its repair, reported by the Tagesspiegel newspaper, has ignited a debate over whether Hitler was really fairly elected — and whether the display should feature his name.

Some politicians have, in recent days, expressed various views of the 1933 elections and the artwork’s merit.

Bundestag President Norbert Lammert has said in two speeches that the elections weren’t democratic, although he has so far left open whether the installation should be modified.

Socialist Left Party member Petra Pau agreed that the election had not been fair, although she said she supported repairing Hitler’s name because seeing it “immediately stimulates reflection and discussion” among visitors.

But Sven Schulz, a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party said the damage should never have been fixed, calling the repairs “making Hitler pretty again.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Teachers ‘Need Help to Fight Youth Extremism’

Attempts to prevent young Germans from getting into right-wing extremism are failing because of poor coordination and sporadic financing say experts. Though all German children discuss the Third Reich as part of their school curriculum, not enough is being taught about modern ideas of human rights and discrimination — and teachers are often poorly equipped to counteract the extreme right wing’s aggressive recruiting of young people, the experts said.

“Short term projects which are time-limited from year to year are not enough,” said Eva-Maria Stange, a member of Saxony’s state legislature. “We need a stable structure.” The November revelation of a neo-Nazi terror cell — three people are suspected of killing a policewoman and at least 9 people with a migration background between 2000 and 2007 — has heightened calls for authorities to do more to prevent young people from being lured into a life of extremism.

Finding solutions will take some effort, said the experts who have called for a consistent, large-scale effort to coordinate a fight against extremism among youth. Freiburg University of Education sociologist Albert Scherr said there should be a federally funded foundation that spearheads anti-discrimination education efforts. Scherr said schools should incorporate more human rights and anti-racism education into the core curriculum.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Sharp Fall in Working-Age Population Seen

‘15-64-year-olds to fall from 65.7% to 54.3% in 2056’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — Italy’s working-age population will fall in the next few decades, Istat said Wednesday.

The 15-64-year-olds will fall from their current 65.7% of the population to 62.8% in 2026, the statistics agency said in a report on Italy’s demographic future. The shrinkage will accelerate over the longer term, Istat said, dropping to 54.3% in 2056, but will then stabilise at 54.7% in 2065.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: New Year Brings End to Bullfighting in Catalonia

Ban effective as of yesterday

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 2 — Yesterday saw the entering into force of a ban on bullfighting in Catalonia, approved in the Catalan Parliament in July 2010. In July 2011 the Chamber of Deputies had rejected a proposal by the Popular Party and the Ciudadanos Party to reverse the ban. Over the past year about 15 bullfights have been held in the region, especially in Barcelona’s Plaza de La Monumental where the last bullfight in September was taken part in by a number of famous bullfighters including José Tomas, Serafin Marin and Juan Mora. The ban originates in the popular legislative initiative promoted by the Prou! (Basta!) platform, which collected 127,500 signatures and on which an appeal is pending submitted to the Constitutional Court by the PP. The law banning the practice established the first six months of 2012 as the period in which economic compensation will be decided on due to the ceasing of activities for those running bullfighting rings and working in the sector, which the latter estimate at 300 million euros and the Catalan government claims is a few dozen thousand ones. The law also provides for the possibility to transfer to the 2013 budget the economic compensation granted to “holders of personal rights” harmed by the ban on bullfighting.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Star Wars’ And ‘LOTR’ Sword Master Bob Anderson Dies at 89

Bob Anderson, a former Olympic swordsman who staged fights for films including the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series, has died, British fencing authorities said Monday. He was 89. The British Academy of Fencing said Monday that Anderson died early New Year’s Day at an English hospital. Anderson donned Darth Vader’s black helmet and fought light saber battles in two of the three original Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

The villainous character was played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, and Anderson’s role was not initially publicized. But Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, said in a 1983 interview that “Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting.” “It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told (director) George (Lucas) I didn’t think it was fair any more,” Hamill told Starlog magazine. “Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition. It’s ridiculous to preserve the myth that it’s all done by one man.”

Robert James Gilbert Anderson was born in Hampshire, southern England, in 1922. He served in the Royal Marines during World War II and represented Britain in fencing at the 1952 Olympics and the 1950 and 1953 world championships. His first film work was staging fights and coaching Errol Flynn on swashbuckler The Master of Ballantrae in 1952.

He went on to become one of the industry’s most sought after sword masters, working on movies including the James Bond adventures From Russia With Love and Die Another Day; The Princess Bride; The Legend of Zorro; and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Fencing academy president Philip Bruce said Monday that Anderson was “truly one of our greatest fencing masters and a world-class film fight director and choreographer.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Rise in Shootings Puts Strain on Malmö Police

After the latest incident where a 15-year-old died from shot wounds to the head and chest on Sunday evening, police say that the situation in Malmö is “strained”. “There were a lot of shootings during the latter part of 2011. It is a tough situation right now,” said Hans Nilsson of the Skåne county police to daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

The 15-year-old was found shot half past midnight, in the midst of New Year’s revellers. Everything is pointing to him being gunned down in cold blood on an open street, while the bangs from the fireworks masked the sound of the gun. “At first I thought he was drunk, but as I approached him I saw all the blood,” said the person who found him to daily Aftonbladet.

So far the police are flummoxed as to why the boy was targeted. He has no previous criminal record and is described by those in the neighbourhood as “an ordinary guy” who was into sports and very fond of his family. “Everyone is talking about it and no one can understand. He was a funny and nice guy, he was full of jokes and almost always happy,” said a school friend to Aftonbladet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syrian Man ‘Assassinated’ In Germany… Sparking Fears Damascus is ‘Hunting Down Its Critics in Europe’

A Syrian man has been killed ‘execution-style’ in Germany as fears grow that the Damascus regime is actively hunting down its critics in Europe.

The 35-year-old man was killed after he stopped in his Volkswagen car at a set of traffic lights in Sarstedt, near Hanover, and two men opened the doors and fired inside.

The two assassins then fled the scene. The victim died from head wounds and a special murder squad has been formed at Hildesheim, where he lived.

Police made no speculation whether his murder was linked to the unrest in Syria that has been continuing since March last year.

The victim’s name, in accordance with German media laws, was not released.

The murder comes a week after a critic of President Bashar Assad’s regime was badly beaten by men wielding iron bars at his home in Berlin.

The Syrian ambassador to Germany was summoned to the foreign ministry in Berlin last month after the attack on a Berlin councillor, Ferhad Ahma.

The 37-year-old Green party politician suffered a severe beating when he opened his door to two men claiming to be police officers.

He believes Syria’s secret police were behind the brutal assault on Boxing Day.

Ahma is an outspoken critic of the Damascus regime, and suffered serious bruises and other wounds in the attack but a spokesman for the Berlin police said that its state security force had taken over the investigation.

The Syrian authorities have been responsible for 5,000 civilian deaths in the country since opposition to the regime started to grow 10 months ago.

Arab League observers, who are in Syria to make sure it keeps its promise to stop cracking down on the dissent, today said the government had withdrawn heavy weapons from inside its cities and freed 3,500 prisoners.

But the League’s Nabil Elaraby added that security forces continue to kill protesters and pro-regime snipers are still operating.

President Assad agreed to the monitoring plan on December 19. But since monitors began work last Tuesday, activists said 150 people, the vast majority of them unarmed, peaceful protesters, have been killed.

Elaby said: ‘Yes, there is still shooting and yes there are still snipers. Yes, killings continue.

‘The objective is for us to wake up in the morning and hear that no one is killed. The mission’s philosophy is to protect civilians, so if one is killed, then our mission is incomplete. There must be a complete cease-fire.’

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the British-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed tanks had withdrawn from cities. But he said residents reported that the weapons were still a threat.

The Arab League plan requires Assad’s regime to remove security forces and heavy weapons from city streets, start talks with opposition leaders, free political prisoners and allow human rights workers and journalists into the country.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Show Them Love’: Archbishop of Canterbury Defends Summer Rioters (Again) In New Year’s Message

The Archbishop of Canterbury today defended rioters who took part in last summer’s unrest claiming many young people felt ‘let down’ by Britain.

He called on the public in a broadcast New Year message not to give up on the younger generation and show them support and love so they can ‘flourish’.

Dr Rowan Williams described the violence as ‘angry’ and ‘lawless’ but claimed the country had failed its youngsters by being ‘suspicious and hostile’ towards them and not providing good role models.

He said: We have to ask what hind of society is it that let’s down so many of its young people.That doesn’t provide good role models and drives youngsters further into unhappiness. and anxiety by only showing them suspicion and negativity.

‘When you see the gifts they can offer, the energy that can be released when they feel safe and loved, you see what a tragedy we so often allow to happen.

Dr Williams’ comments risk another clash with David Cameron who warned last month the Church should ‘keep on the agenda that speaks to the whole country.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Why Can’t I Skype My Friends and Relatives Abroad From Prison?’ Whine of Bangladeshi Terrorist Jailed for Plotting to Blow Up Passenger Jet

A British Airways computer expert who is in jail for plotting to blow up a passenger jet has complained that he is not allowed to use Skype to contact friends and relatives abroad.

Rajib Karim, 32, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in March last year for planning to launch a 9/11-style terror attack from the UK, is furious that he cannot use the free video and telephone system while behind bars.

The father-of-two claims using a prison payphone costs him too much money.

And the convicted terrorist is upset that this leaves him unable to speak to relatives and friends in his native Bangladesh.

In a letter written to Inside Time, a newspaper for prisoners, he said: ‘The international call rates cost a lot using the prison PIN system and the Skype option looked like a perfect solution.

‘The best part was that it was legal and no breach of prison rules as the call was made to a direct number and was not being redirected.

‘But when I recently tried making my first call I was told by staff here at HMP Frankland that I am not allowed to make any calls through Skype.’

He said he ‘tried to explain’ how other prisons in the UK reportedly allow inmates to use the service, but said: “The response was a firm “no” as HMP Frankland is part of the high security estate.’

Karim’s complaint has been passed on to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS).

He was imprisoned for 30 years last year after Woolwich Crown Court heard he wanted to use his position at British Airways to plant a bomb on a plane as part of a ‘chilling’ conspiracy with Anwar Al-Awlaki, a notorious radical preacher associated with Al Qaeda.

U.S.-born Al-Awlaki has previously been linked to a number of high-profile terror plots, and was thought to have inspired the 9/11 bombers. He was killed by a predator drone last September.

Among numerous plots to bring the airline to its knees, Karim hoped he could exploit industrial action by staff to become a cabin crew member and cause an explosion on a U.S.-bound flight.

He was found guilty of four counts of planning terrorism.

Mr Justice Calvert-Smith recommended that Bangladesh-born Karim be automatically deported after he has completed his sentence.

He told Karim: ‘The offences were of the utmost gravity.

‘You are and were a committed jihadist who understood his duty to his religion involves fighting and, God-willing, dying and then being rewarded in the afterlife.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: The Criminals in Uniform: More Than 900 Police Officers and Pcsos Have Convictions From Burglary to Domestic Violence

More than 900 serving police officers and community support officers have a criminal record, official figures show.

Forces across England and Wales employ policemen and women with convictions including burglary, causing death by careless driving, robbery, supplying drugs, domestic violence, forgery and perverting the course of justice.

Those with criminal records include senior officers, among them two detective chief inspectors and one chief inspector working for the Metropolitan Police.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Protest Sit-in by Police Officers in Tunis

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 2 — Internal security officers have today staged a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Tunis. Organised by the police force’s national union, the demonstration urged the drafting of a statute for the profession as well as the provision of the necessary equipment for their difficult job. According to the TAP news agency, the protest was prompted by the “silence of the President of the Republic, the head of government and of the Interior Minister about attacks on security personnel”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Gulf: Defence: Oil Monarchies Spend 35 Billion Dollars

On fighter-bombers, helicopters, missiles, interception systems

(By Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JANUARY 2 — While Iran is busy verifying and demonstrating its war capabilities with missile tests and naval training in the Persian Gulf, the oil monarchies on the other shore have just signed 35 billion dollar deals with the United States to strengthen their own military capabilities.

Saudi Arabia has signed a 30 billion dollar deal to buy 84 new F-15 fighter-bombers, the upgrade of a further 70 aircraft already part of its Royal Air Force and 178 new helicopters — 72 Black Hawks, 70 Apaches and 36 Little Birds.

The United Arab Emirates have agreed a deal to buy two Thaad missile-defence systems — including 96 missiles — for 3.5 billion dollars. The Pentagon says that this the first time that the sophisticated defence system has been sold abroad, and has confirmed the sale of 209 Patriot missiles to Kuwait for a total of 900 million dollars.

Spending by the three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries amounts to a third of the estimated total (100 billion euros) expected by the six nations from the oil block between now and 2015. The Saudi kingdom alone has signed a ten-year plan worth 60 billion dollars, which was approved last year by US Congress.

Armament in the region, which has been growing consistently both which significant overseas purchases and the start of local production of armoured light vehicles and ships, has accelerated in recent years in line with the growth in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The oil monarchies in the Gulf, however, have always denied that there is a direct link between the two factors and have defended the Islamic Republic’s right to develop a nuclear programme for civilian use.

The rivalry between the two powers coveting hegemony in the region, the Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia) has never been hidden and was stepped up last autumn after it emerged that an Iranian plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington had been thwarted. The crisis arrive amid a popular uprising in Bahrain, the only majority Shia country to be ruled by a Sunni dynasty, which in turn came in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is under pressure from the increasingly stringent sanctions imposed by the international community, has once again threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in recent days. With around 40% of the world’s crude oil transiting through the strait, the move would be intolerable both for western economies, and for regional Arab economies that derive most of their wealth from oil production.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Google and Facebook Ordered to Remove Anti Religious Content

Social websites including Google and Facebook have been ordered by an Indian court to remove all ‘anti-religious’ and ‘anti-social’ content within six weeks.

On Saturday a Delhi Court ordered 22 social networking sites, including Yahoo and Microsoft, to wipe the objectionable and defamatory contents and file compliance reports by February 6, 2012.

Additional Civil Judge Mukesh Kumar passed the order on a suit filed by Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi seeking to restrain the websites from circulating objectionable and defamatory contents.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Luxury Maldives Resorts Set to Close Their Health Spas Because Islamists Say They’re ‘Offensive’

Thousands of honeymoons will never be the same again after Islamists put pressure on the Maldives government to close them down.

The islands are a paradise holiday destination renowned for its pristine white sand beaches, turquoise waters and high-end luxury.

Honeymooners and celebrities from around the world flock there, often paying up to $1,000 a night at hideaway resorts.

But now officials in the Maldives have ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago’s luxury spas, health centres and massage parlours must close.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Territorial Army Solider Faces Murder Charge for Shooting Suspected Taliban Bomber

A Territorial Army soldier is under investigation for murder after he shot dead a suspected Taliban bomber.

Fusilier Duane Knott, 26, said he killed the Afghan believing that he was laying explosives intended to kill British troops on patrol.

However, senior officers believe the man may have been an innocent farmer and Fusilier Knott could now become the first British soldier serving in Afghanistan to be charged with murder.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Activists Say Washington Holds Key to Ending Drug War in Mexico

As Mexico’s drug war enters its sixth year, activists say its time for the United States to stop the flow of dollars and guns to the drug cartels. Legalizing drugs, they argue, could save thousands of lives. As the presidency of Mexico’s Felipe Calderon winds down, his legacy is set to be defined by the war he launched against the drug cartels within days of his election in December 2006.

The five-year conflict has not had a significant impact on the quantity of drugs sold by the cartels. This fiscal year, the amount of drugs coming from Mexico seized by US border agents increased by 48 percent. But the war has come at a terrible price to Mexicans, killing more than 45,000, displacing 230,000 and exposing the state’s corruption and inability to protect its citizens.

The candidate who convinces Mexicans that he or she can restore peace and justice to their country will likely win the presidential election next July. But some say that regardless of who is elected, the only effective way to take away the cartels’ profits and power is for the United States to change its drug laws. It’s a message those pushing for an end to the drug war in Mexico hope Americans will hear.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mexican Cartels Seek Recruits Among California Latinos

More than 5,000 young people in San Diego, most of them Hispanics accused of being involved in street gangs, have been held in confinement by the city’s corrections system during the past two years. Most of the crimes are associated with assaults, robbery, drug trafficking or consumption, since according to the authorities, being near the border also makes the youths easy targets for Mexican cartels that recruit them to smuggle drugs.

Pedro Ríos, an activist with the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee, told Efe on Tuesday that the situation is particularly prevalent at high schools in the southern part of the county, which is fertile terrain for recruiting U.S.-born Hispanics who can cross the border with little difficulty.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mexicans Confront Racism With White, Black Doll Video

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY — Is Mexico’s an inherently racist society? Does the culture overwhelmingly favor those with light skin over those with dark skin? And if so, is that a legacy of European colonialism or present-day images in television and advertising? These are among the thorny questions emerging in online forums in Mexico since a government agency began circulating a “viral video” showing schoolchildren in a taped social experiment on race.

The kids are seated at a table before a white doll and a black doll, and are asked to pick the “good doll” or the doll that most resembled them. The children, mostly brown-skinned, almost uniformly say the white doll was better or most resembled them. One child in the video with mixed-race features says the white doll resembled him “in the ears.” “Which doll is the good doll?” a woman’s voice asks the child. “I am not afraid of whites,” he responds, pointing to the white doll. “I have more trust.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


UK: Migration Will Fall Sharply This Year ‘But it Won’t Hit PM’s Target’

The Institute for Public Policy Research claimed that net migration — the difference between the number of people arriving in the UK, and those leaving — would be cut from a record 252,000 in 2010 to 180,000.

But the figure falls short of David Cameron’s commitment to reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ during the lifetime of the current Parliament, it said.

The IPPR, considered New Labour’s favourite think-tank, claimed the best hope of fulfilling the pledge was for an economic downturn to make the country less attractive to migrants and drive away EU migrants already here

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Spain: Abortion a Bigger Problem Than Joblessness, Says Catholic Church

Bishop warns of UNESCO plan to “make half the world population homosexual”

Cardinal Archbishop Antonio Rouco Varela used an open-air gathering in Madrid’s Plaza Colón on Friday to attack the policies of the previous Socialist Party government, calling for a repeal of legislation that provides for abortion on demand, as well as same-sex marriage. “Life is a sacred right that humans have been given by God,” Rouco told the faithful gathered in bright winter sunshine from a stage dominated by a 68-meter-long altar and backed by a 12-meter-high cross.

Rouco railed against the current situation in Spain and Europe, declaring that Christ had lived in times of historic blindness, and that we were now in one of those times. “The family is under attack in Spain,” said the archbishop, who is also the chairman of the Spanish Bishops Conference, insisting that abortion and euthanasia in Europe was a deeper crisis than the economy or politics.

Also present at the Mass, the first major open-air event staged by the Roman Catholic Church in Spain since the Popular Party (PP) government took office last week, were some 30 bishops from around the country. Pope Benedict XVI, in a message from Rome, said the Christian family must be a “refuge for loyalty, respect and understanding.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Deep-Voiced Men Don’t Have ‘Macho’ Sperm

Although it’s women are attracted to men with low-pitched voices, the evolutionary reason isn’t clear. A new study indicates low-voiced men do not have higher quality semen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

The Hollywood arsonist says he was born in Frankfurt,Germany,but he was carrying Chechnyan travel papers. Also, in some of the few photos, he appears to have the beginnings of a beard. There are radical mosques in Frankfurt which have been implicated in other terror attacks. Could this arsonist be a recent convert?
I wouldn't rule out Islam just yet.
On the other hand, he could be just another nut-case liberal One (totalitarian) Worlder who believes in a borderless world. His van had Canadian plates. Perhaps he just drives around to the different "Occupy" demonstrations.